As a curate, I had a very good parish priest in Canon Walter Larkin when I was in Kilkeel in 1983 and 1984.

Larkin had been the ferocious president of St Malachy’s College, Belfast – feared by teachers and pupils.

When he became a PP he was feared by his curates.

When I was being  “bold boy” in Belfast priests used to say to ne: “If you’re not careful you’ll end up with Walter Larkin on Kilkeel”.

And that’s exactly where Daly sent me in February 1983.

And to make it worse, Larkin and Daly were classmates.

I arrived in Kilkeel and went to Walter’s house to introduce myself.

He answered the door, grunted at me, and pointed me to his large, very bare dining room.

“Well, Buckley, what do you think of me” was his first words

I answered, Walter I dont know you, but I have heard you are very difficult to work for”.

“Have you now”, he answered.

Then he said: “You know all the priests are waiting for us to fight with each other”, he said.

I said: “Perhaps”.

Then Walter stretched out his hand towards me and said: “Let’s fool them and be friends”.

We did become friends.

We had very long talks about spiritual matters. And when he was dying he sent for me.

As I sat with him at his death bed Daly walked into the room and was not happy to see me. It had been two years since Daly sacked me.

My fellow curate, Denis Newberry, who had been Walter’s head boy in St Malachy’s was afraid of his life of Walter.

I wonder was Walter a mathematician? Below are some of my pay slips Walter gave me – full of fractions and maths.

Both Walter and I were strong people and he very wisely recognised the way to treat me was man to man and it worked.

A good boss will not be a bully. He will be a team leader that allows the members of the team to use their talents.

It goes to answer those clerics who say I fought with all priests.

Walter was the toughest. We got on well because we had mutual respect.

Walter was afraid of going to hell when he died.

When we met he used to say: “Pat tell me why I will not go to Hell”.

I spoke to him about God’s infinite and mercy and the fact that when God forgives our sins he forgets them too.


Walter was the grandson of Margaret Tinneny of Belturbet and the son of her daughter Annie Casey of Belturbet and James Larkin. He was raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Although he planned on a career in medicine, after his graduation from Queen’s University in Belfast he responded to the calling to enter the priesthood.

Walter was ordained a priest at Maynooth, County Kildare in 1940.  He said his first Mass in the old Catholic Chapel behind the railway station in Belturbet.  His older brother Michael, who by that time was himself studying for the priesthood, served at his First Mass.

From 1945 until 1970 Walter was assigned to Saint Malachy’s College in Belfast in various positions and spent many years as President of the college.  In 1970 he left the college and became the parish Priest of Crossgar after completing his assignment there he served as Parish Priest of Kilkeel.  On April 6, 1988, The Very Reverend Cannon Walter Larkin, a priest for 47 years died of emphysema at Upper Mourne, Kilkeel, County Down.  He is buried there.

JP 11