Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

né le 27 septembre 1921 à Thurles
dans le diocèse de Cashel, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1943
prêtre le 18 juin 1947
décédé le 22 juillet 1966

1947-1949 études supérieures
1949-1964 missionnaire au Nigeria
1949-1954, vicariat de Ondo Ilorin
1954-1964, diocèse d’Ibadan
1964-1966 Wilton, directeur des études

décédé à Galway, Irlande, le 22 juillet 1966,
à l'âge de 45 ans


Father John McELGUNN (1921 - 1966)

John McElgunn was born in Thurles, Co Tipperary (the family address was 9, St. Ita Terrace), in the diocese of Cashel and Emily, on 27 September 1921. He died at Salthill, Galway, on 22 July 1966.

John studied at St. Flannan's college, Ennis (from 1934) and at Thurles C.B.S., before coming to Wilton, Cork to complete his secondary education in 1940. He entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1941 and two years later, on 1 July 1943, he was received as a member of the Society. He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 18 June 1947. He was one of a group of sixteen ordained on that day.

When John completed his secondary education he remained on in Wilton for a further year, studying in the arts faculty at U.C.C. During his years in Kilcolgan he continued his degree course at U.C.G. (receiving additional lectures in Kilcolgan from a priest designated by the university). John graduated with a B.A. degree in June 1943. His subjects were philosophy and education. After ordination he returned to U.C.C., residing at Wilton, and at the end of a year he was awarded a higher diploma in education. While at U.C.C. he also went to classes in the Cork technical school, where he studied electrical engineering. His formation now complete, John was appointed to the vicariate of Ondo Ilorin, Nigeria. He was assigned to the 'Oye Ekiti scheme' from November 1949 until February 1954.

This scheme, devised by Patrick Martin Kelly who became Provincial in 1946, involved the harnessing of local crafts and art skills, such as weaving and wood carving, and also the use of indigenous construction and irrigation methods. In 1954 the Society, in consultation with the local bishops in Nigeria, decided to close down the 'scheme'. One of the principal reasons for this was the cost in maintaining the 'scheme' at a time when the Province's funds were low. Resolute government opposition was also a factor. There was also resistance from ecclesiastical authority towards 'Society works', which appeared to encroach on episcopal prerogatives.

With the closure of the scheme John was assigned to the prefecture of Ibadan, which had been erected in 1953. Richard Finn, the prefect (he was to become bishop on the erection of Ibadan diocese in 1958), appointed John to Ogunpa mission, the 'cathedral' station situated in the heart of Ibadan city. Ogunpa had a catholic community of some 10,000 members and 700 catechumens. There were two outstations to be serviced, four schools to be supervised, and a convent of sisters, with orphanage and teacher training school attached, to be supplied with Mass and the sacraments. In September 1956 John was appointed principal of St. John's elementary teacher training college, at Mapo Hill, Odinjo (Eletta-Ibadan). Not only did he teach and supervise the other teachers in this 'men's training college' (for some 50 students), but he also extended and improved the physical plant. In September 1960 John returned from home leave to take up a new appointment, on the staff of Fatima college, Ikire, a boys secondary boarding school with 170 pupils.

Fatima college had been opened in 1956 with Francis McCabe as first principal. In January 1962 John was appointed founding-principal of St. Patrick's college, Agodi, Ibadan. In December 1964 John fell ill and returned to Ireland where he was diagnosed as having Parkinson's illness. After surgery and a period of convalescence, he was appointed director of students at Wilton college, a post he occupied up to the time of his untimely death. Those who were in Wilton during these years remember John as a man of great humanity and understanding, always fair-minded, who bore the heavy cross of his progressive illness with courage and faith. They remember too his great interest in sport, and his weekly excursions with the great Tipperary hurler, Tony Wall (then an army officer stationed in Cork) to G.A.A. and rugby matches.

John collapsed when bathing at Salthill while on his holidays in Galway. He was taken unconscious from the water and anointed. John was a cheerful, open priest, who placed his many talents at the disposal of his mission without sparing himself. His knowledge of technical matters, acquired while in Cork, was always in great demand. During his years in the teaching ministry he was deeply committed to the pastoral ministry whenever he had time to spare. He was especially active in promoting the Legion of Mary and other forms of catholic lay action. As director of students in Africa and Ireland he was universally popular, with a unique ability to meet students on their own level. His memory is permanently commemorated in St. Patrick's college, where one of the boarding houses is named after him. Moreover owing to his association with the Cheshire home, Ibadan, St. Patrick's established a tradition of taking some disabled students into the school every year. John's had a sister who joined the Mercy convent in Doon, Co Clare, taking the name Martha.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.