Doyle, William Joseph Gabriel (1873–1917), Jesuit priest and military chaplain, was born 3 March 1873 at Melrose, Dalkey, Co. Dublin, youngest child of Hugh Doyle, registrar of the insolvency court, and Christine Doyle (née Byrne). He was educated by the Rosminian Fathers at Ratcliffe College, Leics., and entered the Society of Jesus in Ireland (March 1891). On completing his novitiate he taught at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare (1894–8), founding the college magazine The Clongownian (1895). He then studied philosophy at Enghien, Belgium, and Stonyhurst College, England, before returning to Ireland to teach once more at Clongowes and later Belvedere College, Dublin. His final theological studies were taken at Milltown College, Dublin (1904–7), and he was ordained in July 1907. After completing his tertianship at Trenchiennes, Belgium, he began to work as an urban missionary and retreat-giver in Dublin. Due to his positive attitude he was a great success at this work and also travelled around England, Scotland, and Wales. Recognising that urban labourers were in great need of spiritual direction, he proposed that a special retreat house be opened in Dublin to cater for the needs of the working classes. He also wrote several best-selling pamphlets including Retreats for working men: why not in Ireland? (1909), Vocations (1913), and Shall I be a priest? (1915).
At the outbreak of the first world war he volunteered to work as a military chaplain and was posted (November 1915) to 8th Bn, Royal Irish Fusiliers, 16th (Irish) Division. Arriving in France early in 1916, he soon gained a reputation for bravery and was recommended for the MC (April) for helping to dig wounded men out of a collapsed shelter under fire. Present at the battle of the Somme from its beginning in July 1916, he was awarded the MC (January 1917) for his work with casualties during the battle. He was transferred to 8th Bn, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in December 1916 and greatly impressed the men of his new unit. The CO of the battalion, Lt-col. H. R. Stirke, later said that Fr Doyle was ‘one of the finest fellows that I ever met, utterly fearless, always with a cheery word on his lips, and ever ready to go out and attend the wounded and dying under the heaviest fire’. He was killed in Belgium, along with two other officers, while going to the aid of a wounded man on 16 August 1917 during the third battle of Ypres. His body, supposedly buried on the spot by men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, was never recovered. He was recommended posthumously for both the VC and DSO, but neither was granted.
Personal papers, opened after his death, were the basis of Alfred O'Rahilly's biography of Doyle (1920), and he became a focus of popular devotion in Dublin. The papers also revealed that Doyle had inflicted extreme physical punishments on himself since his novitiate, perhaps since childhood. In August 1938 the cause for his canonisation was proposed and relevant documentation sent to Rome. The cause subsequently fell silent. There is a substantial collection of Doyle papers in the Jesuit archives, Leeson St., Dublin.