Bishop William MacNeely


Bishop William MacNeely

Bishop of Raphoe: 1923-1963


Bishop William Mac Neely had the distinction of being Raphoe’s first completely Roman educated bishop. He was shrewd and down to earth, having his feet firmly planted in his native soil.


William MacNeely was born in 1888, son of a butcher in Donegal Town,  He was educated locally, at the High School in Letterkenny, and in Rome from 1906-12.


He was ordained to the priesthood and received his STD in 1912.


His first appointment was to the teaching staff of St. Eunan’s College 1912-16.   He volunteered as a chaplain in the Great War  from 1916-18, saw action on the western front, and was injured in a gas attack.


He was curate in Letterkenny from 1918-22 and then went to Finner camp as chaplain 1922-23.


He was ordained bishop of Raphoe by Archbishop O’Donnell on 27th July 1923.


He was very able and modest and administered the diocese quietly but competently.


Sensitive to history, he brought the Franciscans back to the diocese -  the Capuchins to Ards 1930 and the Friars Minor to Rossnowlagh 1946.Bishop_MacNeely_crest


His good taste appears in the clerestory windows by Harry Clarke which he added to the Cathedral.


Bishop MacNeely  was Episcopal Secretary to the Irish Hierarchy for many years.  He was highly regarded by his brother bishops and was in demand as speaker on public occasions.


In a diocese where farming was the main industry, he maintained a strong interest in farming, being himself a successful Shorthorn breeder.


Shortly before his death, he was appointed Assistant to the Papal Throne.


After a long episcopate, Bishop William MacNeely died on the 11th December 1963 and is interred beside the Cathedral.


Information from 'The Raphoe Diocese, a brief History' by Fr John J. Silke, 2000