Charity registration No. SC002876  
Sunday June 16th. 2013
t was with great sadness that parishioners and her many friends  heard of Susan’s  death in the Belford Hospital on Tuesday morning  For myself, it was as if a light went out in the parish for Susan was so involved with the church which she loved so much. Our deepest sympathy goes to her sister, Kathleen and her husband Michael, who were so much part of her life, and to her many relatives, and especially her good friend Helen MacDonald from Arisaig,  who took such immense care of her during her illness. There was always one of them at her bedside day and night,  and she was aware of their presence despite her condition, and it must have brought her such comfort and consolation. So many people, both in Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge,  inquired almost daily about her condition, for she was highly respected and loved because of  her kindness and concern for others. There was a great warmth and sincerity in Susan, which was so much of her Irish upbringing. Susan was one of ten of a family, all  born but one, in Co. Monaghan, which is one of three counties of Ulster that are located in the Republic of Ireland. Times were not easy, and the family farm, which was the only source of income for the upkeep of the large family, was unjustly taken from them, and as a result Susan’s father had to leave the family in 1929 and he came to Roy Bridge looking for work. There were large number of men from Ireland working on the dams and tunnel  to be built for the new Aluminium factory, but Charlie was a farmer and sought work on for which he was used. He was fortunate to obtain  job on Keppoch farm,  and once he was assured of permanent employment he returned to Ireland and took his family to Roy Bridge where they became an essential part of the parish and of the local school. In 1939, the family moved to Spean Bridge to one of the old cottages close to the present church, and were later allocated one of the new houses built at Spean Crescent, which became the family home for many years until Susan's recent death. In her earlier days, Susan worked in Spean Bridge Hotel where she was highly regarded by the owners for her enthusiasm and cheerfulness, and the attention she gave to guests, which no doubt was full of Irish charm and humour.
About this time, the diocese had the lease of a house at Spean for the priest serving the Knoydart parish, which was used first by Fr. MacPherson, later bishop of the diocese, and then by Fr Ian Gillies. In the mid 1950’s, on hearing that  bishop Grant had appointed Fr. Ian to be resident parish priest of Knoydart, Susan readily offered to be his housekeeper, and gave up her secure job at the hotel. She considered it a great privilege to take care of the priest, but this was just another facet of her deep spiritual faith showing itself. She was to be Fr Ian’s housekeeper for twenty-three years, five of them in Knoydart and eighteen in Arisaig. The early days in Knoydart were not easy as the accommodation was very poor until finally a new chapel house was built, mainly by the work of Fr Ian himself, for he was a very skilled carpenter, following in footsteps of his father. When he was appointed to Arisaig, he found the house and church in a poor state, and there was no one more ideally suited than himself to renovate them. It meant a lot  of very hard work, but he had the support and help of Susan behind him who was prepared to put up with all the major work and assured that he did not overwork and was well fed and rested. Both the church and the house are today a testimony to their years in the parish and how they transformed it. The chapel house in Arisaig was legendary for its  hospitality and food—all due to Susan because of the warmth of her welcome to everyone who called. During these years, Fr Gillies was deeply involved with helping the people of  the village as well  as the parish,  and pioneered with Frank Patterson the first cable television in the highlands with  every house linked to the transmitter which had been specially built. Without Susan's support and encouragement, a lot of this would never have happened.. She became worried that he was taxing himself too much, for he also renovated the old church at Polnish, near Lochailort, with the help of local volunteers. Her anxiety sadly proved to be true, for he took ill and was removed to the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, where she was with him when he died on August 14th, 1983. His death caused an immense sorrow and gap in her life, but she very kindly agreed to remain for a year when Fr. John Angus MacDonald was appointed temporary parish priest to see him settled, then she decided to come back to the family home at Spean Crescent. Her great love was the church and the Mass, and she was so happy when she was asked to take care of St. Joseph’s, which in time became a second home for her and a work of love for the rest of her life. She took the greatest care of the church, cleaning it, arranging  flowers, preparing the altar for Mass, assuring the heating was on, and did so many other things. She decided to retire after a fall she had, and although she was sad to make this decision, she was delighted when  David MacFarlane offered to take her place, and has carried on the same wonderful service to the church and the priest, and his wife, Liz, kindly takes care of all the altar linen. Susan was a very devout woman with a great love of the Mass, the Eucharist, Our Lady and the rosary, for these were the important things in her life. Through the grace she received from these, they had a profound effect on her life for she had a spirit of holiness that was obvious to all who knew  her. There was a large number, many from Arisaig,  at the Requiem Mass in St. Margaret's, which was offered by Bishop Joseph, her nephew. Afterwards she was laid gently to rest close to her family at Cille Choirill cemetery. May her devout gentle soul rest in the peace of Christ whom she served so faithfully and lovingly in this life.
Susan Toal, servant to the Church and to the Priesthood