The life and death of Rev. William John Burke

On this day 1883 Emily’s father Rev. William John Burke died in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. He was 78. His death certificate stated Bronchial Pneumonia lasting ten days as the cause of death. His eldest daughter, Miriam was with him. There was no mention of his wife Emily.

He was buried a few miles down the road at Clontuskert Churchyard. His death and burial belying the way he lived. His passing is only recorded in the church and civil records, unlike his life after changing religion, forty years since.

There was no obituary in the papers or dedication in any church, in spite of his work as a missionary and Evangelist for much of the nineteenth century. Scarcely a week went by without his name appearing in either the Irish or British newspapers, reporting his triumphs or tragedies. His life was by and large controversial as a convert priest of his times could be. Even if he didn’t change religion he would certainly have gained notoriety in the Catholic Church, as he had become disenchanted with the church authorities and being outspoken as he was it was perhaps only a matter of time till he could hold his tongue no longer.

In his time he would have been remembered for controversial reasons and perhaps not so much his oration skills and talent as a preacher.

Clontuskert Heritage Group., and Joe Molloy. The Parish of Clontuskert: Glimpses Into Its Past. Ballinasloe, Co. Galway: Clontuskert Heritage Group, 2009. P 115
Thanks to:
Joe Molloy, editor of our 2009 publication, “The Parish of Clontuskert – Glimpses into its Past” for kindly providing me with the information of Rev and Mrs Burke’s grave and the photographs of St. Matthew’s Church
Jill Cooke  who kindly provided me with the Burke’s burial records.