Shock and sadness at death of Donegal man Martin Williamson in California

OBITUARY: 'He was remarkable, quick witted, a superb footballer and fun to be around' - school friends recall

Sue Doherty


Sue Doherty

Shock and sadness at death of Donegal man Martin Williamson in California

The late Martin Williamson pictured soon after he joined the US Air Force.

Sue Doherty 

There was widespread shock and sadness at the news of the recent death of Martin Williamson, a native of Rossnowlagh, in California.

He was widely known for his tremendous skill as a GAA footballer, and played on the 1980 All-Ireland winning De La Salle team.

He also played county minor football for Donegal and lined out with Aodh Ruadh.

His death resulted from a road traffic accident on October 31, not far from his home in Fontana, near San Bernadino, southern California. He was aged 54.

Two of his brothers, Pascal and Gerard, who both live in the USA, flew to be at his side in hospital where he was placed on life support and where he passed away within the week.

Martin was the youngest of eight children born to Charlie and Roseabelle Williamson of Rossnowlagh. He is predeceased by his parents and his eldest sibling Kevin, who passed away in January 2015. He is survived by Rosemary (Maine), Gráinne (Trinidad), Christina (New Jersey), Deirdre (Laghey), Pascal (Hawaii) and Gerard (Texas).

Deirdre described their idyllic childhood. "Our house was the second one up from the Friary. The beach and the Friary were our playground."

Martin attended Coolmore NS until it closed, then transferred to Creevy NS. Even from an early age, he loved dancing. He learned Irish dance from his uncle, Brother Pascal, who was a champion dancer, and from JJ McDermott "until he got slagged off for wearing the kilt," Deirdre recalled this week.

At De La Salle, he excelled on the sports field, and was a member of the All-Ireland winning GAA team in 1980.

After secondary school, he worked for a time with Donegal County Council in Lifford until he decided to emigrate to the USA when he was in his 20s.

There, he joined the Air Force which laid the foundation for his lifelong career in the aviation industry. At the time of his death, he was working for South West Airlines.

Martin was always, Deirdre said, "full of life", a man who "loved the craic big time, who loved to joke and kid around".

He also remained "as Irish as the day he left Donegal", avidly following his beloved GAA and remaining a big fan of Irish music and dance.

Despite the long distance, Martin, who never married, remained extremely close to his siblings. "He was very much loved, even though he was far away, he always stayed close to the family," Deirdre said.

His family are flying to California to attend a memorial service in California, after which his remains will be cremated.

There will also be a memorial service here in Donegal sometime in the New Year, arrangements to follow.

"So many of Martin's fellow students, former team members and many friends have contacted us this week to offer their condolences and help. That has been a great source of comfort to us all," Deirdre told the Democrat. "It will be very special for us to see them and share all our memories of Martin."

Martin's football and school colleagues were saddened and shocked to learn of the news of his death.

Tom McMahon, one of many to comment, told the Democrat: “He was a super athlete and his prowess on the football field has been well documented.

Brian Tuohy added: Martin was a very popular team mate and lad at school. When on his game he was a forceful player with a powerful left foot and he contributed enormously to our success with all our De La Salle teams at u15, 17 & senior.”