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Archbishop John McDowell pays tribute to Professor Raymond Gillespie

Archbishop John McDowell pays tribute to Professor Raymond Gillespie

Archbishop John McDowell has paid tribute to Professor Raymond Gillespie, who has died after a short illness: 

“On my first day at school in September 1960 I found myself in Miss Coop’s class sitting beside a boy called Raymond Gillespie. For the next eighteen years we sat together in classrooms in Rosetta Primary School, Annadale Grammar School and as History undergraduates at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Ray was of course a professional historian to his fingertips and there are many people much better qualified than I am to say just how very good he was. We in the Church of Ireland owe Ray a debt we can never repay for his prodigious contribution to so many aspects of our historiography. The last time I spoke to Ray, which was over dinner in the University Club about a year ago, he was trying to persuade me to undertake a PhD on the Church of Ireland in Belfast in the twentieth century.

Ray was a man of very deep humanity; a life enhancer. He was interested in people and he respected them, and where they were willing, he shared with them the riches of his abundant mind and his copious scholarship. He had enormous reserves of sympathy and understanding, without ever claiming to know the secrets of one’s heart. He was truly Christian, not least in the sense that when he committed himself to something he never slackened or wavered.

I suppose it’s hardly possible for an historian not to have spoken ill of anybody, but I can think of no one more free from any form of malice than Ray. I don’t think he would ever have knowingly wounded anyone’s feelings. His personal as well as his professional legacy will live on in the minds and hearts of his many friends.

My own prayers and the prayers of many people in the Church of Ireland will be with Ray’s wife Bernie at this difficult time.”

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