Psychologist Peter Dorai Raj left profound impact on adopted city

The late Peter Dorai Raj

OBITUARY

Peter Dorai Raj never regretted leaving his native Malaysia to make a life for himself on the other side of the world in Galway.

His well-attended funeral recently was a testament to the high regard his adopted city had for him, as well it should for his tireless work in improving the quality of life of many of its inhabitants through his work as a psychologist.

In his 83rd year, Peter had enjoyed just a short three years of retirement from Pro Consult, a counselling service he had helped set up in 1992 with Dr Kathleen Fitzgerald, in response to the lack of affordable professional services in the West of Ireland at that time.

When it was founded in Newtownsmyth, it was under the auspices of the Catholic Church, supported by the late Bishop Eamonn Casey, who knew Peter from his work as a psychologist with the Brothers of Charity, with whom he worked until his retirement at the age of 65.

But Peter continued, with his wife Helen, a counsellor, to work with Pro Consult for well over another decade.

Peter was educated in Malaysia by the Irish De La Salle brothers who advised him to apply for university in Ireland when he showed in interest in psychology while working as a teacher,

He arrived at UCG in 1967 as a religious brother and initially completed a BA in Galway.

It was while in college in Galway that he met two people who were to have a huge influence on his life, his future wife Helen Lawless from Fr Griffin Road, and Seamus McCloone, a psychologist who advised him to do a post graduate diploma in Psychology in UCD.

By then Peter and Helen had become a couple. They married in 1972 and settled in Renmore, near his new job with the Brothers of Charity.

In 1984 the couple moved to Grattan Court where they reared a family of five and, as in all aspects of Peter’s life, he proved to be ahead of his time in his role of husband and father.

A gentle soul who supported his wife and children, he was more than happy to do more of the cooking when Helen decided she wanted to train as a therapist.

Peter only made a few trips home to Malaysia – his parents died when he was younger (his father when he was just five and his mother years later in a road accident). He no longer spoke his native Tamil but he never forgot the dishes he had seen his mother make and the Dorai Raj home in Galway was an open welcoming one where Peter made many a delicious curry.

The sense of family was strong and he hosted many a niece and nephew or cousin into his home.

His daughter Siobhán in her eulogy in St Ignatius Church during the funeral Mass, celebrated by Fr Martin Curry SJ, told the congregation that her father was a “hands-on dad who couldn’t bear to hear us cry when we woke in the night, so paced the floor rocking us back to sleep.”

She recalled how he had ceded complete control of the family finances to his wife believing that his money was to be shared in the household but rarely spent a penny on himself.

He was proud of his children and supported them in their decisions and in recent years adored his three grandchildren, Isabella, Killian and Nia.

Of course, it was this caring attitude and his passion for his work that made him so popular with colleagues and clients. He had always been an advocate for independent living for people with intellectual disabilities and welcomed moves by Irish institutions to encourage residents to move into the community.

He made Galway his home and loved walks on Salthill Prom and, indeed, played tennis until he was seventy when he got cancer, a disease he survived, though his fitness levels were never the same afterwards.

He had been a keen sportsman – cricket, hockey, football as well as tennis and followed local teams, always supporting Galway.

Peter kept up with current affairs even watching the Nuacht despite not having a word or Irish, though at one stage of his life he attempted to learn it but never accomplished fluency due to his busy work schedule.

In his retirement he loved visiting his grandchildren in England and continued to give talks on interpersonal development and parenting whenever he was asked.

He was a daily Mass-goer and never lost his strong Catholic faith, one that was, and still is, a minority religion in Malaysia.

He died peacefully at the Galway Clinic following a short illness but was ready to die being the spiritual and positive person he was.

He is survived and missed by Helen, his children, Paul, Siobhán, David, Conn and Maria as well as his sister, Susilee, sons-in-law Justin and Andreas, brother-in-law Eamon, sisters-in-law Mary and Angela, his adored grandchildren as well as extended family and circle of friends.