1884-1957. Born in Drogheda, Administrator of Catholic Action. Frank O'Reilly was a highly influential man and a key figure in the Catholic Action movement which gained power and prominence in the twentieth century. He was born in Drogheda, Co. Louth, and educated by the Christian Brothers in Drogheda and Belfast. His father Michael was manager in a local mill which provided a comfortable if modest standard of living for his family. This changed several years later when Michael Reilly lost his arm in an accident in the mill and was forced to retire, after which the family left Drogheda and relocated to the Falls Road in Belfast. Frank O'Reilly had begun his education with the Christian Brothers in Drogheda and continued and completed his education with the same congregation in Belfast. O'Reilly excelled in school, winning exhibitions in his intermediate course and securing a special prize for English composition.
Leaving school aged seventeen, O'Reilly obtained a job in the Post Office in Belfast in July 1901. In 1905 he moved to Dublin to work in the Surveyors Department in the GPO, and in November 1907 was promoted to the clerical staff of the Surveyors Department. He was active in distributing food to children during the 1913 Strike and Lockout. In 1917, O'Reilly married Margaret Keating and the two moved to a house on Church Road, Drumcondra, to establish a family. O'Reilly remained with the Surveyors Department until early 1918 when the issue of Irish civil servants taking oaths to the British Crown arose. O'Reilly left the civil service and applied for several positions, ultimately securing the job of executive secretary of the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland. This Society, first established in Britain c.1868, was set up in Ireland in 1899. Its primary aim was printing and distributing catholic literature. O'Reilly used his organisational abilities to run the Society more efficiently and put it on a sound financial footing by, for instance, increasing pamphlet sales. In 1926 acted as Secretary of the Daniel O’Connell Centenary Committee.
His appointments as secretary to the committee organising Catholic Emancipation Centenary celebrations (1929), see also Denis Barrett KSG, and as Director of Organisation of the Eucharistic Congress (1932), helped make him a well-known catholic layman. In the context of the Congress he admitted to the Order of St Gregory, with his billet of appointment being signed by the future Pope Pius XII. He was also awarded a Doctorate of Laws by the National University, honora causa, which was signed by the Vice-Chancellor Denis Coffey, who was himself to be awarded a Grand Cross of the order of St Sylvester in 1940. In 1937 he was selected by the Hierarchy to sit on an official committee to examine requests by bishops that specifically catholic broadcasts be made part of the schedule programming of Radio Éireann. The scheme foundered on the opposition of de Valera, but O'Reilly took the opportunity to befriend John Charles McQuaid. In 1939 he persuaded Archbishop McQuaid to assume the chairmanship of the education and youth sub-committee of the Catholic Truth Society, and the following year O'Reilly's organisation was among forty invited by the Archbishop to a meeting at the Mansion House to discuss poverty. He continued as secretary to the Society until 1950, when he helped organise the events of the Holy Year. He was a member of the Knights of St Columbanus. After seven years’ retirement he died suddenly at home in 1 Kenilworth Road, Rathgar, Dublin, and was survived by his wife, three sons, and four daughters. (See unpublished paper “God likes help: the career of Frank O’Reilly, 1918 – 1932”, by Stephen O’Reilly, April 2010). In the folder Pictures Gallery, please see displays of various O'Reilly artefacts, including decorations, by courtesy of the O’Reilly family.
Decorations and other memorabilia of Frank O’Reilly, KC*SG
Image in gallery
Silver Papal Cross; medal “Pope Gregory” with yellow ribbon, bar and miniature; Green enamel collar and Maltese Cross, Gregory XVI; large eight-pointed Star with red enamel Cross, Gregory XVI; Small Redemporist red enamel badge; Blue ribbon holding with bar, blue enamel papal Gold Cross; Leonine Medal with bar in Silver; Leonine Medal with bar in Gold; Chicago 1926 Eucharistic medal; Chicago 1926 Eucharistic medal; large bronze Pius XI medallion; Blue and Red ribbon with two silver bars, holding Pius XI silver medal Benemerenti; Green and White Eucharistic Cross; Large round green bronze Pius XII medallion; Small gold Eucharistic blue circle enamel gold with Chalice, Dublin on Cross; and Small gold Eucharistic blue circle enamel gold with Chalice, Dublin on Cross brooch with blue ribbon and 3 gold bars.
- Medal with green ribbon; Maltese cross with yellow/red ribbon; CTSI medal with yellow and white ribbon and pin; small metal badge (Anno Jubilaei MCML); Brown metal badge – Centenary Catholic Emancipation (1829-1929 Saoirse Credim); Dark Grey metal Badge – Centenary Catholic Emancipation); Small blue flag, with 31st. International Eucharistic Congress Dublin 1932 Crest emblem, on metal bar; Small yellow and white flag, with emblem of the Holy See, on metal bar; and Armband “Director of Organisation” with 31st International Eucharistic Congress Dublin 1932 Crest emblem.
(Courtesy of the O’Reilly Family)