Community mourns death of former Moutbellew principal Br Michael Burke

Mountbellew is mourning the loss of Franciscan Brother Michael Burke who made a great contribution to the parish and community through his involvement in many clubs and committees.

Br Michael died following a road traffic accident in Co Offaly on Thursday August 18 after the car he was driving collided with a truck on the N62 at Cloghan. Br Michael had a long history of involvement with the Franciscan Agricultural College in Mountbellew until he was promoted in the Franciscan order almost two years ago when he became Minister General of the Franciscan Brothers at Mountbellew. He was heavily involved in the campaign to keep Mountbellew Agriculture College open in 2011.

A native of Gortroe, Corrandulla, Co Galway, where he attended national school, Br Michael attended the VEC in Fr Griffith Road, and worked in Galway before going to St Anthony’s College, Clara, Co Offaly. He made his first profession as a Franciscan Brother in 1974. He was a student at Mountbellew Agricultural College and Warrenstown Agricultural College until 1977 when he returned to Mountbellew as a livestock specialist.

In 1981 he joined the Franciscan Mission in Kenya, East Africa, where he served as principal of the Baraka Agricultural College, Molo, until he returned to Ireland in 1985. From that time until he retired in 2015, he had numerous roles in Mountbellew Agricultural College, including, dean of students, vice-principal and principal of the college for one year 1989-1990.

He pursued further studies, completing a BA in public administration and a master's in rural development at NUIG, and on his retirement, he was elected minister general of the Franciscan Brothers. As well as numerous other duties over the past year, Michael spent time in the Franciscan Missions in Kenya and Uganda, encouraging and supporting the work of the Brothers there.

From a strong sporting family, Br Michael played football for Annaghdown, Clara GAA Club, the Agricultural College Mountbellew, and he won an All-Ireland medal with Warrenstown Agricultural College in 1975/1976 as full back. His brother Paddy Joe won All-Ireland medals in minor and U21 in the early 1970s with Galway.

He was deeply involved with the Corrandulla and Galway County Ploughing Association, and had recently been a judge at the Tullamore Show.

Michael was the son of Sarah Burke and the late John Burke and was one of 11 children. A great family person and involved in all the varied family events, he was known amongst his family as the “chief organiser”.

He will be greatly missed by all his family, and particularly his mother Sarah who is in her 92nd year and to whom he gave special care and attention over the last few years.

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