Derry Nostalgia: Knight to remember as hundreds gather as Church honors founder of Foyle Hospice

Today we look back 20 years and an article that appeared in the Derry News, Thursday February 14, 2002

In a moving tribute at St. Eugene’s Cathedral, Foyle Hospice founder Dr. Tom McGinley dedicated his prestigious papal knighthood to his wife of thirty-nine years, Deirdre.

Over a thousand people flocked to the cathedral to see one of Derry’s most respected people receive the rare honour, which was bestowed in a ceremony led by the Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty .

Upon receiving the traditional medal, sword and plaque, Dr. McGinley informed the congregation of well-wishers that none of his accomplishments would have been possible without the strength and support of his wife, who herself even has battled cancer for the past seven years.

Speaking to the Derry News at a reception later held at the Hospice, Dr Tom again expressed his gratitude.

“My tribute to my wife is well deserved, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to do so – especially because all the awards I have received in the past I have dedicated to my parents and my teachers,” he said.

“And now I have the opportunity to pay tribute to the one person who has given me the time and support to do so. It has been an inspiration to me over the past seven years that she went from cancer to treatment, to chemotherapy, to radiotherapy, to recurrent cancer, to continuing chemotherapy.

“Her motto is really tomorrow is a mystery, and every day is precious, and she really helped me cope.”

Dr McGinley also paid tribute to all those who had been involved in the hospice over the years – and he gave a special word of thanks to the Cathedral Choir, for making the Monday evening ceremonies ‘so special’ .

During the service, Bishop Hegarty paid tribute to Dr. McGinley’s tireless work in establishing the hospice and his invaluable role in the community.

And he condemned those who abuse and assault health professionals in the line of duty.

“These attacks on public service workers are generally a most disturbing and worrying phenomenon,” he said.

“From this gathering here tonight, we wish to express our support and solidarity with all those who work for the common good of our community and in particular for those who work in care/healing professions.”

Hundreds of people from Derry showed up for the service, including MEP John Hume and Bishop Edward Daly who attended the service along with representatives from across the diocese.

Also in attendance was James Doherty, the only other living recipient of the honor in the city.

Speaking afterwards, John Hume remarked: ‘I think the huge turnout at the Cathedral service, from all sections of our community in Derry, and across the divide, gives a serious impression of the enormous respect for Dr. Tom McGinley and for the great work he has done in establishing the Hospice.

“And of course he has had great support from such a wonderful team of dedicated staff.”

Mayor’s Commendation

Speaking at a reception at Foyle Hospice after the ceremonies, Derry Mayor Mildred Garfield congratulated Dr McGinley on behalf of Derry City Council.

“I’m delighted to be here to celebrate Dr McGinley’s pontifical knighthood, I really think he deserves it,” she said.

“He has worked extremely hard over the past few years to develop the Foyle Hospice and Daycare Center and I am delighted that he has been recognized for the work he has done on behalf of all townspeople. I wish him all the best for the future.”

Ciaran McGinley, fundraising manager for the Hospice and son of Dr. Tom, spoke of the McGinley family’s joy at the honor.

“It was a superb evening and a fantastic recognition of the work that my father has done over the last thirty, forty years in the care of the sick, those with cancer and life-threatening illnesses,” he said.

“But I also want to congratulate the community, because without them, this could not have happened. You can see from the response of people here tonight how caring they are.


Dr. McGinley himself was “overwhelmed” by the turnout.

He commented: “There were people from all walks of life there, people who traveled from all parts of Ireland just to be here for the occasion, and I think that shows the strength of the devotion that people have for the Hospice.

“He grew up in the community, they felt a part of it was theirs and their support has been incredible.

“We wouldn’t be here tonight if not for the spontaneous response when we started fundraising in 1993, and it’s been a roller coaster ride ever since. I found the service adorable, especially the beautiful singing of the choir.

One man, who had more reason than others to praise Dr. Tom’s work, was Andrew McClay, who credits the doctor with his life for helping him in his own battle with prostate cancer.

“I can’t put into words what he did for me,” he said. “There is no one more deserving than Dr Tom for this award. I truly believe that some people come at different times when they are needed and Dr McGinley is one of those people.

“I met him at my club many years ago and he never failed to impress me with his strength, determination and courage. It’s beyond amazing.”

Martha J. Finley