Obituary: The Very Rev Maurice Talbot

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The Independent Culture
MAURICE TALBOT, standing 6ft 4in, erect, handsome, with florid complexion and sandy hair, was every inch a dean and the son of a dean.

From 1954 until 1971 he was Dean of Limerick, and his father had been Dean of Cashel in County Tipperary. Talbot was bought up in the Irish countryside and he loved every aspect of it. All country pursuits delighted him. He was an expert fisherman and shot, and was immensely well informed in the ways of nature and country lore. He identified with the life of country people of all sorts. He was a form of ecumenist long before the term came into popular use.

He had an extraordinary faith in the projects suggested by his own exuberant enthusiasm. "Don't you agree, Bishop?" was often the bold challenge offered to many a cautious Father-in-God, which frequently evoked a reply from a hapless bishop which made him seem, if not wet, certainly a little damp.

Maurice Talbot was larger than life and conveyed a dauntless confidence to those whom he led in any project - Cathedral Chapter, on the rugby field, the cricket pitch, the tennis court or in a protest to redress an injustice to any of God's creatures including humankind.

He was born in 1912 and educated at St Columba's College, Dublin, in the 1920s, where his love of sport and the church was fostered and his mind set upon following the family tradition of service in the Church of Ireland. He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1952 to read Divinity. He represented the university in sport and was to the fore in all the social, communal and other interests and escapades of the student body. He lived a well-rounded life and was always a deeply faithful and caring Christian.

He chose to return to the country on his ordination, becoming curate of the parish of Nantenan and Rathkeale in Limerick Diocese in 1937. In 1942 he married Elizabeth Westropp, a member of an old County Limerick family. They had four sons, all in stature like their father.

In 1942 he became rector of the parish and in 1952 rector of Killarney. This brought him into contact with many overseas visitors who appreciated greatly his ministrations and his unique personality, so that his reputation spread far outside Ireland.

In 1954 Talbot was appointed Dean of St Mary's Cathedral, the massive 12th-century building on an island in the River Shannon which is the heart of Limerick City. He brought the cathedral into the life of the city and the city into the life of the cathedral. Barriers were broken down and a welcome offered to all people of goodwill. The ancient fabric was restored and cared for, ancient traditions preserved and made relevant to the 20th century and the beautiful cathedral grew in significance for the whole city.

But at the moment of his greatest success as Dean tragedy struck. At the age of 57, he suffered a massive and crippling stroke and in 1971 had to retire. Though he suffered deeply, through his determination, the care and encouragement of his wife and family and his own extraordinary faith he recovered sufficiently to return to the active ministry, taking charge of a series of parishes over the next 15 years.

He received another blow when his beloved wife Elizabeth died suddenly in 1975; and one of his sons became gravely ill later in 1980. Talbot remarried in 1980 - Rita - and they enjoyed a very happy and fulfilled life together, going to live at Abbeyleix in 1986, pursuing their many common interests.

When other men might have withdrawn from the struggle of life after suffering a severe stroke Maurice Talbot undertook new projects and faced new demands. He collected a large amount of arcane agricultural machinery to save it for posterity, restoring it as aids to agricultural archaeology. He gave his collection to Bunratty Folk Park so that others might enjoy what interested him. His generosity overflowed.

The Christian faith was never a department in his life; it was the ambience in which he lived, moved and had his being; in which every interest and relationship found its place. He was truly fulfilled.

; Caird

Maurice John Talbot, priest: born 29 March 1912; ordained deacon 1935, priest 1936; Rector of Rathkeale 1942-52; Rector of Killarney 1952-54; Dean of Limerick 1954-71 (Emeritus); Bishop's Curate, Kilmallock Union of Parishes 1971-73; Rector of Drumcliffe 1980-84; married 1942 Elisabeth Westropp (died 1975; four sons), 1980 Rita Soames; died 17 June 1999.