ENNISKILLEN’S Neil Hannon says his cleric father’s diagnosis with Alzheimer’s Disease seven years ago has forced him to reflect on his past.
The frontman of The Divine Comedy received a Legend Award from the Oh Yeah organisation in November, recognising the band’s huge success.
Currently planning a tour for The Divine Comedy’s tenth album, as yet to be named, the old Portoran told the Belfast Telegraph his music has been his “outlet” for the last three years in particular.
“The current music environment doesn’t motivate you to do it for money; it’s just what I do. It’s my outlet and it has been a world of pain for the last three years. This album is the 10th and I feel every last song on it. They tell you you’re a legend when you’re starting to feel really exhausted and you’re still making albums. That’s it.”
Now based in Dublin, Neil is able to spend more time with his father, former Church of Ireland Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Brian Hannon.
“I have two words for coping with dad’s illness: it’s hard,” he says, “I was trying to remember what I could about my childhood, before he forgot it all. I had a blissfully dull childhood. Not to take away from my parents, but it was quite uneventful. Looking back is an issue for me as my childhood was so dull, mainly because I was never in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s not to say it was a dull time in the province. I don’t want to get all psychological about it; I always look forward instead of back. Writing about the past makes me feel quite queasy.” 
Last year however, Neil devoted his composition for London’s Royal Festival Hall’s newly renovated organ, ‘To Our Fathers in Distress’ to his own father.
He said at the time: “It was his condition that persuaded me to delve back into my own memories; to make a kind of mental pilgrimage on his behalf. In my teens I gradually brainwashed myself into believing that I was going to be a pop star. In order to achieve this I had to either change or obliterate various unhelpful aspects of my personality; my ghastly shyness, my pathetically weedy self-image etc. And because this was not a conscious activity, I may have somehow thrown the baby out with the bath water. I guess it’s what we all do when we are growing up. We retain the things that make us who we want to be, and discard the rest. I just did a particularly good job – with the result that now I have a tough job remembering who the hell I really am,” he wrote in The Guardian.
Besides working on the tenth album Neil is also devoting much of his time to charity performances for the Alzheimer’s Society: “a cause close to my heart”, he says.
In one of his most memorable fundraising efforts for the charity, he was a contestant on Celebrity Mastermind, beating off beating off journalist Jon Sopel to claim the prize.