Large crowds gather for funeral of Dec's brother Father Dermott Donnelly

TV star Declan Donnelly has been paying tribute to his beloved brother Father Dermott Donnelly, at his funeral service.

The popular priest, who had recently celebrated 30 years of service in the Catholic church, died earlier this month in hospital after falling seriously ill, at the age of 55.

In a moving tribute Dec spoke fondly of growing up with Dermott and their family life in Newcastle's West End.

Dec recalls childhood memories with his brother

While recounting tales of being one of seven children Dec said: "Dermott and I being the youngest were consigned to the bottom bunks.

"When my five or six year-old overactive imagination created monsters under the bed or vampires in the closet I would run out of my bed and jump into Dermott's bunk.

"He would calm me down in the middle of the night with stories that he invented.

"He was very calm, very sensitive very protective of us all."

There were also stories of how Dermott "really hated" football practise while training to be a priest and at one point even planned on breaking his leg to get out of it.

Dec also told of his brother's dreams of building somewhere where lost people felt like they belonged, describing the world as a "slightly worse place" now that he was gone.

Hundreds gathered for the funeral service of Father Dermott Donnelly on Friday 29 July.

The Geordie star spoke on behalf of the family and thanked the public for all of the tributes and messages of support expressing the family as "overwhelmed" with the kindness shown.

A Requiem Mass was held at St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, at lunchtime.

During the service Emeritus Bishop Séamus Cunningham, former Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle spoke of the man who spoke little but did a lot.

He said: "Dermott was a quiet, unassuming man with no airs or graces.

"Some people people talk a lot but do very little. Dermott said little but did a lot."

What is a Requiem Mass?

A Requiem Mass is a Catholic church service in memory of someone who has recently died. It is usually held in the context of a funeral, when it is often referred to as a Funeral Mass.

Father Donnelly's body was received on Thursday (28 July) evening at St Michael's Church in the city's West End, where an overflow congregation gathered to watch a livestream of the service - a testament to the late priest's popularity.

The Donnellys - Dermott, Dec, Martin, Eamonn, Camelia, Patricia and Moira - grew up in Cruddas Park and attended St Michael's, when they were growing up.

After the death on 8 July, Declan Donnelly said he was "heartbroken", adding:

"We are all beyond devastated."

His double act partner and best friend Ant McPartlin added: "Fr. Dermott you were the kindest, wisest man I knew. Rest in peace my friend. You will never be forgotten.

"My thoughts, prayers and love are with your wonderful family.

"The world has lost a special man."

St Michael's Church was the church where Dec married Ali Astall in 2015, officiated by his brother Dermott.

The priest was best known for his work with young people and youth ministry. He was a member of the clergy for St Joseph's Church in Stanley, County Durham.

Hexham and Newcastle Bishop Robert Byrne said: "He truly lived his faith, and in doing so gave so much to others.

"It is with great gratitude that we will remember him and all he selflessly gave."

Father Dermott Donnelly outside St Michael's ahead of Dec's wedding. Credit: PA Images

During his career, Father Dermott was a supporter of The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) charity.

Its Head of Education Monica Conmee said he had been a "great friend of Cafod", adding: "Fr Dermott chose to stand in the light, and through his immense talent and gifts, so generously guided thousands of young people to experience the love and light of God in their own lives, inspiring them to share this with others."

In 2014, Fr Dermott featured on Songs Of Praise alongside CBBC's Hacker T Dog to answer questions about the church, sent in by CBBC viewers.

In April 2022, he visited Downing Street and joined other religious leaders praying for peace.

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