Fr. Brian recalls breaking out to see the Beatles

Published: 13 Sep 2012 14:300 comments

When The Beatles were performing live in Dublin in the sixties, well-known Fermanagh priest Fr. Brian D'Arcy who was really keen on pop music when he entered the Monastery confessed to Enniskillen Rotarians this week that as a student he broke out of his room to go and see this new phenomenon!

Fr. Brian D'Arcy, the surprise recipient of a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow, is pictured with Mr. Jack Cunningham, Rotary District Governor, and Kenny Fisher, President of Enniskillen Rotary Club.

However, on seeing what was happening and the screaming girls, the young man quickly broke back into the monastery window that he came out of!

The popular rector of the Graan, who is well-known for his love of music and sport, was the guest speaker at Enniskillen Rotary Club's luncheon at the Killyhevlin Hotel on Monday afternoon, when he was the surprise recipient of Rotary's highest honour - a Paul Harris Fellowship Award.

The presentation by Rotary President Kenny Fisher took place in the presence of Rotarians and guests, including special guest District Governor of Rotary International Jack Cunningham, whose theme for the year is 'Fellowship of Rotary'.

The accolade came as a tremendous surprise to Fr. Brian, who had just delivered an entertaining address - reflecting on his life and his work in the media, which stemmed from his youth in Bellanaleck - which is home to a number of well-known journalists and writers.

He recalled that 50 years ago this month he entered the Graan in Enniskillen; he has just recently started his fourth consecutive term of office as rector at the Enniskillen Monastery, where he has served as rector for the past 12 consecutive years. (Twenty years in total).

After his first year, Fr. Brian went from the Graan to Dublin to UCD. The young man, who began writing about pop music and sport at St. Michael's, began writing for a pop magazine following his arrival in the city. He wrote under the name Hughie (his father's name) because he wouldn't have been allowed to read a paper never mind write for one at that time.

On his ordination to the Priesthood, his first appointment then as a 24-year-old was to be editor of the magazine, The Cross. Having completed a course in journalism, he edited the magazine, which rose in circulation from 8,000 to 25,000 in his first year.

In the first magazine that he edited, he put the Beatles on the front cover in November 1970 (which would have been unheard of for a religious magazine at the time).

As well as having written features for the Irish Press and the Sunday Independent, he also served in the Catholic Communications Centre on the outskirts of Dublin. On his appointment as Parish Priest of Mount Argus, he moved on from The Cross magazine.

In July 1976, he began writing for The Sunday World and since then he has never missed a day writing for the publication.

He began to broadcast more regularly and on May 31 1979, when he was still P.P. of Mount Argus, he was asked to do religious broadcasts for 2FM every morning.

On moving to the Graan in Enniskillen, he began broadcasting with the BBC and his association with Radio 2 in London and Radio Ulster began; he broadcast in the morning for 17 years with Terry Wogan (Pause for Thought) and subsequently remained with Chris Evans. In fact on Monday morning, prior to attending Monday's luncheon, he had been in his room in the Graan talking to 10 million people as they tuned into Chris Evans.

There were also his Sunday Half Hour broadcasts on Radio 2 for five years and he has written 14 books.

It all happened by accident, admits Fr. Brian, who told Rotarians: "This is my hobby. I have to do a job as well."

The first Priest and possibly only Priest in the National Union of Journalists in Ireland, he was accepted to the NUJ in 1972 and this year he received Life Membership.

Rotarian Tom Harpur proposed a vote of thanks to their speaker, before Enniskillen Rotary President Kenny Fisher came forward to present Fr. Brian with the Paul Harris Award in recognition of his outstanding work in the community and farther afield.

Speaking afterwards Fr. Brian said for him the award came as a complete shock and he said he felt very honoured indeed to be a recipient of such an honour.

Meanwhile, the BBC is compiling an hour long documentary to be broadcast in the autumn and a camera crew has been following Fr. Brian around for the past six months.

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