Rev. Fr Gerard McAteer: 2nd June 1918-16th January 2010

Wednesday 3 February 2010

It was with great sadness that the residents of Rathlin learned of the death of Fr Mc Ateer last month.

Fr Mc Ateer came to Rathlin in 1987 and was our priest and friend for 12 years. During that time Father Mc Ateer was not only our spiritual leader, but quickly assumed the mantle of a community leader. He soon got to know all the islanders and formed good relationships as he identified not only the needs of individuals but the island in general. He re-introduced many of the traditions that used to take place on Rathlin, such as drama, model yacht racing, and ceilidhs, with great gusto and enthusiasm that encouraged all the islanders to get involved. Father Mc Ateer was a firm believer that a good ceilidh was better than a long winded sermon every Sunday!

Reunion week in 1989 was one of his first ventures in getting the people of the island and further afield together for the start of what was to become festival week. This encouraged many families to get reacquainted with each other and keep the links with the island alive. It is a testament to this initial reunion week that our festival week is still going strong 21 years down the line.

Father Mc Ateer was at his happiest when he was in the school surrounding himself with the children as he taught music and formed Rathlin’s very own band, with accordions and tin whistles and their distinctive uniforms that graced many of our events. He was very involved in the life of the school not only in teaching music but ensuring that it was central to island life.

Along with the music Father Mc Ateer shared his love of the Irish language through lessons on the island, mass in Irish and in turn St. Patrick’s Day became a big event on the island.

On his retirement from Rathlin in 1999 a huge void was left in the life of the islanders, not only with his leaving but as he was also the last resident priest on the island.

Father Mc Ateer retired to his beloved cottage, and he began to compile his memoirs and this resulted in the publication of his book “Better Late Than Never”, which was first published in Irish and then translated to English and proved to be a popular read.

It is a testament to the affection that Father Mc Ateer was held in, that on the day of his funeral a third of the island population were able to attend.

RDCA Committee


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