While many people first encountered Fr Doyle through the O’Rahilly book, there are a lot whose first contact was actually the book Merry in God. This book was published in 1939, and many people mistakenly believe it was also written by O’Rahilly. However, no author’s name appears on the text. The book appears to have been written by Fr Charles Doyle, Willie’s older brother with whom he was inseparable as a child and who was instrumental in recruiting him as Jesuit.
It’s not clear why the book was written anonymously. Perhaps the thinking was that it was strange for a brother to write a book about a brother. However, the book borrows very substantially from the O’Rahilly text, and this may be why some people have mistakenly believed that it was written by him.
Merry in God contains a wealth of new information about the life of the young Willie Doyle as a child, and paints a more intimate family portrait of the life of the Doyles in Dalkey. It is also a somewhat simpler book in the sense that it tells the story of Fr Doyle’s life but without the long (but interesting) digressions into ascetical theology as a means of justifying Fr Doyle’s spirit and penances.
The title Merry in God can be hard to track down – it pops up occasionally in second hand bookstores and online.
However, the book itself has (mostly) appeared under another title – Trench Priest – which has been produced by the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer in Scotland.
The bulk of the text of Trench Priest is taken directly from Merry in God. I know that some passages of Merry in God do not appear there but from glancing through the text I would imagine that at least 90 or 95% of the text of Merry in God (and perhaps even more) is reproduced word for word in Trench Priest. Furthermore the publication contains the text of Vocations by Fr Doyle as well as a list of alleged cures and favours through Fr Doyle’s intercession that first appeared in appendices of some (but not all) editions of the O’Rahilly book (there were so many editions and impressions of the O’Rahilly book that it is hard to follow).
Merry in God/Trench Priest is well worth reading for a good, detailed, general overview of Fr Doyle’s life, including new and intimate insights into the Doyle family and their childhood which did not appear in O’Rahilly. It is a simpler and easier book it read than the O’Rahilly book. Even if you have read O’Rahilly, Merry in God/Trench Priest is well worth reading.
As I write there are two copies of Merry in God for sale on eBay. Trench Priest can be bought in printed format here:
The printed version is in magazine format with black and white pictures and on newspaper style paper. This has the benefit of making it very affordable but not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing reading experience.
I have recently discovered that Trench Priest is also available on kindle in a very good typeset format.