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Grey skies but bright memories at funeral

Parishioners’ warm words for people’s priest

Fr Matt Wallace in 1982 Fr Matt Wallace in 1982
By Ciara Quinn

“HAVING spent a lot of my early life living close to Turf Lodge, when I got married to my wife I was lucky to know Fr Matt Wallace, or Fr Matt as we all called him,” recalled Brian Quinn outside Holy Trinity church.

“He was a man who had time for everyone and loved a smoke and a chat. He would always ask about ‘so and so’ in your family as he knew everyone. He was the heart of the parish, the church, the youth club, the boxing club, the Girl Guides and he loved talking about them and was so proud of all their achievements as he would tell us all at that week’s Mass when the next up and coming boxer was fighting, or when the youth club were doing something or trying to raise funds for the new chapel.

“My lasting memory of Fr Matt was charging up the side aisle at Mass, then when Mass was over not getting past the second row before stopping and chatting away with whoever may have been standing there and shaking hands with all around,” he said.

“That was just him. Taking time for people, being such a giving priest and always having some craic.

“When my family asked Fr Matt to visit a relative in the Hospice he said ‘Not a bother.’ When we told the relative he perked up at the thought that Fr Matt was coming up, so we waited and waited. At one stage the relative asked were we sure Fr Matt was coming, but then around 9pm in bounces Matt. Every room he ever visited just lit up with his presence.

“Fr Matt gave so much of his time to one and all, he always fought for the people of Turf Lodge and the immense show of people at his funeral showed how the people not only of Turf Lodge but throughout held him in such high esteem.

 “It is such a loss, not only for his immediate family, but for all of us who thought of Fr Matt as family. He was our priest and we loved him dearly.”

Parishioner Mary Reid said simply that Fr Matt was “a brilliant priest.” “He was always so very approachable on any problem and had time for you and always showed an interest. He would come and visit my husband in the hospital and just had a way of getting on with people.”

Monagh Drive resident Phyllis Conlon said: “He was one in a million. We will never get another one like him, we will never get another Fr Wallace, the young people just loved him.”

Former Whiterock resident and a PIPS charity director, John Mallon, who had come to pay his respects at Tuesday’s Requiem Mass, said: “God help him. He was just like any other man, he was a human being who suffered like the rest of us. Unfortunately his mental health broke him down. He was always there for anybody that needed him and of course he was always with a smoke in his hand. He never would have turned you away and he was bred into the community.

“His Mass services were the stuff of legend, he was always able to get the points across in such a quick way. It’s just so very, very sad,” added John.

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