Smaller philanthropists should also be lauded

Dear Editor, It was interesting to read Peter Costello’s timeline of some philanthropic Irish millionaires and their laudable generous contribution to Irish society (Book Reviews IC 08/01/2015). There were possibly many smaller, and possibly more personally impactful, acts of generosity going on that also need to be lauded.

Take the case of Canon Molloy – co-founder of the Donegal Historical Society and parish priest for Dungloe. He met my English beatnik parents, walking down the main street of a very conservative Dungloe, in 1951.

He put them up for the night and had a significant conversation with them about the textile trade in general, and hand weaving in Donegal in particular. Many hand weavers and possibly their families had emigrated.

A few weeks later, back in London, my parents received a letter from Canon Molly. He asked if he found a place for them, and lent them a significant amount of money interest-free, would they return and set up a cottage weaving business?

They did and worked hard for five years, establishing Donegal Design, against many odds, close to Loch Anure.

On the return of capital to Canon Molloy, the move to Dublin put their cottage industry on the textile map, going on to employ about 25 people in Clonskeagh, and winning European awards.

I wonder what act of faith led Canon Molloy, in a county that had good cause to disdain anything Sassenach, to be so benevolent to my non-religious, English parents?

Perhaps he had the spirit of the Russian staretsky monks, who could clearly see into the very souls of people. Did Canon Molloy realise that his pious paternalism spoke deeply to the soul of a fatherless young man, whose own father had committed suicide? 

The Irish Catholic archives may have many similar benefactor-type stories worth publishing, to honour the lesser but equally significant philanthropists in Irish history. 

Yours etc.,

Louis Hemmings,


Co. Dublin