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Former teacher dies hours after completing Camino pilgrimage

Seamus McDonagh (60) died hours after completing the two-week Camino Primitivo from Oviedo to Santiago. He is pictured at the summit of Croagh Patrick on a previous trek
Gareth McKeown

A WEST Belfast man who died just hours after completing the two-week Camino pilgrimage in Spain has been described as a "fantastic human being".

Retired teacher Seamus McDonagh (60) collapsed with a heart attack on Sunday night, shortly after finishing a 320km route from Oviedo to Santiago.

His son Barry told the Irish News that he spoke to his father just hours before he died and he was "full of joy".

"He had all the hard work of the walking finished and he was just absolutely done out," he said.

"He said in Santiago there was a real satisfaction from people having completed the walk, a real beautiful atmosphere and he was just going to soak it up and enjoy it. He was just full of life and love for the family as he always was."

A former pupil at De La Salle College in west Belfast, Mr McDonagh was also an art teacher there for 30 years, before taking early retirement in 2009 to care for his ill wife Anna.

She passed away the following year aged 54.

John Craig, who taught with Mr McDonagh for 25 years and completed a Camino trail with him in 2012, said he was "an outstanding teacher".

"He touched the hearts and minds of generations of boys who attended De La Salle College," he said.

"He was also a fantastic human being. He had no equal on any front and he combined a philosophical approach to life with a mischievous sense of humour.

"Everyone who met him even for a short time, was touched by his presence."

A father to Barry and Clare, Mr McDonagh, from Glen Road, was also a loving grandfather-of-six children who he "doted upon".

"He loved his family, he loved his grand-kids, loved walking, just living life to the full really. He was just an inspiration to everybody," Barry said.

Mr McDonagh's death, in a De La Salle hostel in Santiago, followed the completion of his fifth Camino trail. He had also been on pilgrimages to Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg in the past.

A "deeply spiritual" man, he loved keeping fit and could regularly be found walking the Mournes.

Mr McDonagh's funeral is set to take place in Dunmurry next week when his body is returned to Ireland.

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