Northern Ireland

Pat McEniff: Popular Donegal-born dentist always had time for people

HAVING been born and raised in the hotel trade in a busy seaside town, it was no surprise that Pat McEniff loved company.

He always had time for people, and always had a good story or joke to lighten the mood.

Everyone seemed to know Pat and his generosity and easy-going nature won him friends wherever he went.

He was a member of one of Donegal's most famous families, his parents owning the Holyrood and Hamilton hotels in Bundoran.

Brother Brian would go on to be the first manager to bring the Sam Maguire Cup to the county, while another brother, Sean, was Ireland's longest-serving councillor.

And all of the family grew up playing their various parts in the 24/7 effort to run a successful hotel business.

Even when Pat left in his teens to be a boarder at St McCartan's College in Monaghan, he still helped out in the bar when he was home and was always at the centre of any music that was being played.

With Brian on the piano, Pat would lead the singing, joined by the likes of Paul Brady or other visitors to the hotel.

Pat McEniff (right) with Paul Brady (left) and Cormac McCready, who would also sing in the Holyrood hotel
Pat McEniff (right) with Paul Brady (left) and Cormac McCready, who would also sing in the Holyrood hotel Pat McEniff (right) with Paul Brady (left) and Cormac McCready, who would also sing in the Holyrood hotel

The same people skills were put to good use in his career as a dentist.

After graduating in Dublin in the 1960s, Pat's first practice was in the unlikely surroundings of Belfast's Shankill Road.

He later established surgeries in Belleek, Enniskillen and Ballyshannon, and in latter years in Killybegs.

As a dentist he was known for his great skill in pulling teeth.

But his greatest extraction may have been bringing Galway woman Maureen Healy to Belleek on the Fermanagh/Donegal border, where they made their home in a beautiful Georgian house on Main Street and brought up four children.

They shared a passion for golf, Pat being an avid player all his life and a past captain of the Bundoran club.

In younger years he turned out for Bundoran GAA club and picked up a junior football championship medal.

Not surprisingly, given Brian's success as a player and manager, he was also one of Donegal GAA's biggest supporters.

One of few times anyone ever saw him cry was that glorious day at Croke Park in 1992 when the county finally tasted All-Ireland success.

Pat also had a great interest in local history and the stories of people and places down the years. He was a long-time member of the Donegal Historical Society and seemed to have an encyclopaedic memory.

He enjoyed writing and even published a book of fiction, Thelma's People.

In recent years he suffered with dementia, but was looked after lovingly by Maureen until a bad fall meant he would need professional care.

Pat was 81 when he died from Covid-19 on December 9, the pandemic depriving Belleek and Bundoran of the huge funeral his popularity deserved.

Predeceased by his parents John and Elizabeth and brother Sean, he is survived and sadly missed by Maureen, their children Patrick, Dara, Nessa and Eimear, and 15 grandchildren and family circle.