William Butler Yeats

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In "The Ballad of Father Gilligan," whom did Father Gilligan meet in the house of the dying man?

Quick answer:

In "The Ballad of Father Gilligan," Father Gilligan meets the dying man's wife, although by the time he meets her, the man in fact is already dead. He died while Father Gilligan was fast asleep in a chair.

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Poor Father Gilligan leads an unhappy life. Half of his flock are sick in bed, and the other half are six feet under. This makes him feel incredibly weary night and day. He never gets a moment's rest or joy or peace as his parishioners continue to die off on a regular basis.

On this particular occasion, Father Gilligan is so tired that he falls asleep in a chair after a dying man has sent for him. When he awakes from his slumbers, Father Gilligan feels terrible that a man has died while he was fast asleep in a chair.

He hurriedly gets up, mounts his horse, and rides off to the dead man's house. When he gets there, he's met by the man's wife, who is now, of course, a widow. She tells him that her husband died an hour ago. Father Gilligan sways to and fro in grief. But it soon transpires that while the old priest was gone, the dying man turned "As merry as a bird."

This leads Father Gilligan to conclude that while he was fast asleep in a chair, God sent down one of his angels to help him in his hour of need and took pity on him.

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