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28 Jan 2022

'Great sense of sadness' at death of respected County Derry businessman

Tommy O'Connelll was described as a 'man of few words'.

'Great sense of sadness' at death of respected County Derry businessman

The late Tommy O'Connell.

Mourners from across County Derry gathered at St. Patrick's Church, Dungiven on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to Tommy O'Connell who passed away suddenly last week.

A highly respected local businessman, Mr. O'Connell, who was 89 years old, founded T. O'Connell & Sons in the 1970s and built the business to provide employment for a great number of people in the local area, where they continue to do so to this day.

Rev. Fr. Seamus Kelly PP spoke of Mr. O'Connell's dedication to his wife Ann and their four children:;

“Tommy and Ann met at a Sunday night dance in Drumsurn Hall some 70 years ago, and that was the start of it. They rarely had a cross word since.

“After their marriage, they rented a small house on Dungiven Main Street, and Tommy worked away from home in the beginning, in England and Luxembourg as a joiner. They then set about building a small bungalow on New Street, their first family home,” said Fr. Kelly.

“Tommy started to make bricks and blocks by hand and that hard work ethic remained with him all his days. As their family flourished, Tommy upgraded to his 'forever home' in 1979.

“Tommy's faith was ever present, so much so that when Pope John Paul II came to visit Drogheda in 1979 Tommy had his date stone from his new home sent to Drogheda to be blessed by the Pope. He was a man of quiet faith, and had his rosary with him daily, he was prepared,” added Fr. Kelly.

Tommy O'Connell built his business in the area through hard work, he knew all his employees by their first name, and with over 100 employees he continued to work up to the age of 77 years old. Speaking of Mr. O'Connell's sense of humour, Fr. Kelly said;

“When board meetings were called for 10am at Mill Race House, anyone who was attending knew to time it well, and they'd be served with one of Ann's famous frys. Tommy would have laughed and said 'we may not pay well but we feed well',” added Father Kelly.

“Tommy was a man of few words, but when he spoke you listened.

The parish priest continued;

“Tommy's second love, after his wife and family, was horses. In the mid 1970's Tommy enjoyed American harness racing, and many a great day he spent at the trotting field.

“Tommy's first priority was always for his wife Ann, and their children. He loved his wife faithfully, they were married for 63 years and were devoted to each other.

“I've known Tommy for over 30 years, since my first time here in Dungiven parish, and I always found him to be a kind, helpful man over that time.

“There is great sense of sadness today, in the community but more so for Ann. They were a close couple right from that first dance in Drumsurn hall, and always dedicated to each other,” concluded Father Kelly.

Mr. O'Connell was laid to rest in the adjoining cemetery and is survived by his wife Ann, children Collette, Geraldine, Seamus and Gerard, sons and daughters in law, grandchildren and great grandchildren, and brother Charlie.

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