Born in Galbally, Ireland on 29 September 1807
Took the habit in Maryvale on 31 October 1849
Oblation in Maryvale on 1 November 1850 (No. 294)
Dispensed from vows on 24 April 1851
Priestly ordination in Limerick on 24 June 1852
Took the habit in Belmont House on 7 November 1863
Oblation in Inchicore on 25 December 1864
Died in Sicklinghall on 20 November 1887

Willam Laffan was born in Galbally, Ireland, in the diocese of Limerick, on 29 September 1807. As a young man he was involved in the struggle for Catholic emancipation in Ireland led by Daniel O’Connell. He entered the major seminary but when his parents died he had to return to his family to support his young brothers and sisters. He worked on his parents’ farm, he became secretary to the Secretary of State for Ireland, he taught in Carlow College and from 1841-1849 he was a justice of the peace.

He began his novitiate on 31 October in Maryvale where he made his oblation on 1 November 1850. The General council admitted him to profession on 4 September 1850; the Secretary General wrote at the time: “Laffan, 35 years of age, mediocre ability as a theologian but has a mature judgement, solid virtue and a marvellous facility for preaching. Because of his age he was put to do his first year of theology during his novitiate.” In the General Council of 23 April 1851 he was dispensed from his vows because “he showed little taste for religious life; he was weak intellectually and asked to return to Ireland.”

He continued his studies for the diocesan clergy in All Hallows seminary, Dublin, and was ordained priest on 24 June 1852. He worked as a priest for eleven years in Falmouth, in the diocese of Clifton, England, and asked to be readmitted to the congregation. He began his novitiate again in Belmont House on 7 November 1863. In his reports Father Prosper Boisramé was never very satisfied with this “worn-out old priest, good but he has brought ideas from the world which he can scarcely rid himself of at his age.” He was not very obedient and hardly ever went with the community. “He always has excuses, he is never to blame,” wrote the master of novices in January 1864, “he can still perform some small services, but he will never be a devout Oblate of Mary Immaculate.” During his novitiate he gave some lessons in English composition to the novices. In June he took part in the Cramare mission where he made himself useful in the confessional but was “no use for preaching”.

Before finishing his novitiate he was sent to the mission house in Inchicore where he made his oblation on 25 December 1864. He lived for many years in this house as a missionary, apart from some years when he was bursar in Holy Cross, Liverpool (1871) and Sicklinghall (1873). He returned to Sicklinghall in 1878 and spent there the last years of his life where he died on 20 November 1887 and was buried. In his obituary composed by Father Kirby we read: “As a preacher Father Laffan had excellent qualities; despite a strain of originality and rather old fashioned pronunciation, he always achieved powerful effects on his listeners…As a writer I can say that no priest in this province surpassed him, so flowing and facile was his style; it was amazing to see how quickly he could write page after page with no desk but his knee.”

Yvon Beaudoin
and Michael Hughes, o.m.i.