One of south Donegal’s oldest and most well-known characters, Willie McLaughlin, has passed away in his 98th year, peacefully in the tender care of the staff in the Shiel Hospital, Ballyshannon.
Willie was born on a high and windy hill known as the “Raws” just outside Castlefin on the border between Donegal and Tyrone.
In 1925, he came to live in the lovely townland of Corlea where he lived until the early 1950s.
His father Thomas was a noted musician and Willie loved to sing, dance, act and play Gaelic football all his life as he cast a cool look at the world from two merry blue eyes.
He could handle a plough and a spade, and was a well known actor with the Border Players in the 1940s and was coached by the great Tomas MacAna, who went on to become Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre
In the middle of that decade he joined the Cementation Company and worked on the Erne Scheme, later joining the ESB where he worked until his retirement in 1987.
Willie loved to travel and worked in Kildare in the early 1950s where he won an All-Ireland medal for amateur drama with the Ballymoreustace players in the Fr Matthew Temperance Hall in Dublin.
In 1954 he had the good fortune to marry Rose McGuire, who passed away last July.
Willie was a life long GAA fan and devoted to a pretty unique cross-border club called Corlea for whom he played in a Democrat Cup final in 1948.
He also hit frees, and served as secretary and treasurer of the club and never forgot that the club was disbanded in 1948.
Three years later he helped in a brief revival that was to last just a year.
After their marriage, Willie and Rose went to live in Gaoth Dobhair from 1954-1960 where his sociable nature made him many friends.
Willie drove a lorry for the ESB, a job he loved in latter years as it took him all over the country and he also worked on the land in the family farm in Corlea.
He also loved to tell yarns about the great old characters from the Corlea team and the Ballyshannon legends but retained an encyclopaedic knowledge of sports people, men and women all over Ireland
In later years he was a devoted carer for his wife Rose.
And now they are together with Baby Rose in a place where there is no more pain and an April moon is really an angel’s wing.
His funeral Mass takes place in St Patrick’s Church Ballyshannon at 11am on Wednesday morning.