Dungannon soprano and harpist, Gemma Prince

Dungannon soprano and harpist Gemma Prince performed some of Thomas Moore’s Irish Melodies at St Macartan’s Cathedral Clogher. “Sing, Sweet Harp” provided a fine opening to the 25th annual William Carleton Society Summer School. The school director Aidan Fee introduced Gemma, with a talk on Moore. Cathedral organist Diane Whittaker provided the music at the start and finish of the performance.


MARTIN MCGARRELL from Cashel, Annyalla, explained he was acting as spokesperson for the Co. Monaghan landowner group consisting of 115 landowners who were totally opposed to pylons on their lands. This represented 92% of landowners in the area stretching from border at Lemgare to S. Monaghan almost to Cavan border.

As had already been pointed out, 99% of people who attended three open days in Monaghan in May 2013 indicated they had no acceptance of the current project. This remained the case despite the vast amount of money EirGrid had spent trying to infiltrate our communities by way of sponsorship of local radio stations and the GAA.

This advertising in the local media which had been ongoing since the application was lodged in June 2015 and particularly intense since this oral hearing began is prejudicial to a fair outcome and totally contrary to natural justice, not to mention a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

They may be here to talk but the talk had been of rebuttal, denial, stonewalling, constant changing of evidence, filibustering, legalistic and technical jargon and point blank refusal to supply reasonable information that was requested.

EirGrid say that 25% of the lands have been accessed and surveyed but yet no maps have been produced to prove this. We firmly believe that nowhere near 25% of lands were accessed in Monaghan and if they were then it was done by trespass without the knowledge of the owner.

The landowners are full supportive of the stance taken by both CMAPC and NEPPC when they withdrew from part one of the hearing. Both the Cavan/Meath landowners and Monaghan landowners unanimously endorsed this stance at hugely attended meetings in Navan on Holy Thursday and Aughnamullen on Easter Monday.

What EirGrid was allowed to do by way of submitting maps in the EIS without firstly informing the landowners concerned was a total insult to not only the 25 affected landowners but to all the landowners in general. An insult to one is an insult to all.

To compound this insult the amended maps were delivered some days and indeed weeks later in the case of the first six by courier on Good Friday and Easter Tuesday, after they had been presented to this oral hearing, without any consultation with the landowners whatsoever.

MARIA FITZPATRICK from Lemgare claimed people in Monaghan were not being given the same treatment as the rest of the country where partial undergrounding of electricity lines was being allowed. She expressed concerns about the access route EirGrid proposed to use to get to the proposed pylon site. She said it would bring construction traffic along a laneway lines with hawthorn hedges and it was not suitable for that. She also wanted to know what would happen to the horses she kept when work on the towers was taking place. They would not have access to water if the laneway was blocked. They were also sensitive animals and she was concerned for their safety. She said it would also affect her husband’s business. 

MARTIN TRAYNOR from Lemgare said the power line would have a devastating impact as it would split his farm in two. He would have no choice but to travel under the lines several times daily to carry out his work. His elderly mother lived next door and her residence would be about 44m from the outer conductor of the line. He had a shed that was less than 30m away from the outer conductor of the line.

Mr Traynor claimed that the construction of the foundations for one of the towers had the potential to ruin the spring well from which he drew his water supply. There would be knock-on impacts for his farming enterprise and suckler cow herd, depriving him of earning a living from the land.

PHILIP AND ANNA COLLINS, Lisdrumgormley, had their submission presented by Jim McNally. They had expanded their our poultry house egg production in 2011 to accomodate 32,000 laying hens. However this new poultry house had not been included on the developer’s maps in the planning application.

EirGrid had admitted their property was very highly sensitive in the EIS, but had made no attempt to change the route, or to actively engage with, or accommodate them at any time in a positive or constructive manner. NIE in the North had redirected the line in South Tyrone near the Moy to avoid poultry housing.

No great effort was made by the developer to look at putting this powerline underground using DC technology along national roadways which would have avoided a very high sensitive poultry egg producing unit such as theirs. The omission of the new poultry unit from the EirGrid maps in their view rendered the EIS and the planning application incomplete, given that their poultry business should be classified as “very highly sensitive” in line with EirGrid’s own parameters.

Mr Mc Nally also presented a submission for KATHLEEN HUGHES of Lisdrumgormley. She expressed concerned about the real potential disturbance to the animals on the family farm and the access restrictions to the land in real terms during construction. She was concerned about the ongoing interruption to farming work and the potential for the spread of disease among animals. The access route for proposed pylon 109 was near a bend, off a local road, and would require the removal of wire fencing and hedgerow and bulldozing, to level off high ground and uneven surfaces in the field. No clarification on how each of these issues would be addressed had ever been explained to her.



The first anniversary of my father’s death on 30th December 2014 was marked with a Mass at the house in Dublin. To the right of the celebrant Fr Martin Murnaghan (a regular Christmas visitor over the years) was an empty chair with Dad’s photo and some candles. This is where he worked daily on his laptop and completed the manuscript for a book Stabat Mater, with his own translation of the original Latin poem. The book was published by Gracewing in May (£9.99) and copies can be obtained from them or via the family. IMG_20151231_105801


Eily O'Grady with her husband Frank Patterson (right) and singer Martin Flynn in the USA  Photo: Martin Flynn website

Eily O’Grady with her husband Frank Patterson (right) and singer Martin Flynn in the USA Photo: Martin Flynn website

The death has taken place of the concert pianist Eily O’Grady, widow of Frank Patterson, the acclaimed Irish tenor who died in New York in 2000 aged 62. She is survived by her son Éanan, a violinist, who used to perform with his parents, and three sisters, including the violinist Geraldine O’Grady from Dundrum. Her funeral is taking place tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10.30am in the Church of the Holy Cross, Dundrum, Dublin, followed by burial alongside her husband at St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.

I remember meeting Frank and Eily during the mid-1970s when they would come over to Birmingham for St Patrick’s Day concerts, performing along with Eily’s relatives, the traditional folk group Na Casaidigh. I recall interviewing them for BBC Radio Birmingham and they were both very friendly and easygoing. Rest in Peace.

Frank Patterson achieved international recognition and fame as one of the outstanding tenors of his generation. With a career spanning more than three decades, he was Ireland’s Golden Tenor. Frank attained the pinnacle of his profession and was acclaimed for his artistry in oratorio and in classical song as well as for his Irish and international repertoire.

Frank’s musical career began as a boy soprano in his hometown of Clonmel, County Tipperary. In 1962, the aspiring artist went to Dublin to begin formal vocal studies with Dr. Hans Waldemar Rosen, pursuing at the same time a course of acting at the National Academy of Theater and Allied Arts. After only two years of study, the young performer won all the major awards at Ireland’s national music festival, the Feis Ceoil. Following Frank’s successes, he was in demand for classical recitals around Ireland, but he was particularly noted for his performances in oratorio.

Early in 1966, Frank toured as soloist with Feis Eireann, a group of other young Irish singers and dancers, on an extensive tour of America. The pianist and musical director was Eily O’Grady, an accomplished member of the well-known Dublin musical family. Tenor and pianist fell in love on that tour, which would serve as prelude to a harmonious union and professional partnership. After a three-day honeymoon, the newlyweds left on another four-month tour of the U.S. and Canada. On their return from that tour, Frank and Eily left for London so Frank could continue his vocal studies.

In 1968, Frank was extended an opportunity to study with the famous French soprano Janine Micheau. Seizing that chance, the young couple moved to Paris. The four years in France would have daunted a less committed team but not Frank and Eily, for both believed fervently in his talent. To help finance Frank’s studies during that period, Frank and Eily gave frequent concerts and radio performances. A broadcast of Purcell’s songs on BBC radio brought Frank to the attention of the Phillips Record Company. Recognizing his talent, Phillips quickly placed the gifted tenor under contract, recording six albums within three years; thus began Frank Patterson’s distinguished and celebrated recording career.

From that favorable beginning, Frank recorded more than 40 albums in six languages, including opera, oratorio, and songs by Purcell, Handel, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Berlioz. A later Phillips classic compilation featured Frank Patterson singing Handel arias and Hugo Wolf songs with Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, Elly Ameling, and Herman Prey. His worldwide popularity expanded, in part because of the success of his crossover albums featuring Irish ballads, Broadway hits, inspirational songs, and modern international favorites. His numerous sales won him platinum, gold, and silver discs, and two of his American releases reached million-dollar status.

As Frank’s reputation grew, so too did the demand for his talent in concert recitals, radio and television broadcasts, and oratorio performances throughout Europe. His performance as the evangelist in the Bach Passions won particular praise. He performed at many of the great musical festivals of Europe, including the Aix-en-Provence where he sang Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis under the baton of Karl Richter. Additionally, he sang at the famous Promenade Concerts in the Royal Albert Hall in London and appeared as soloist with many of the leading European orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Liverpool Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre de Paris, RAI Symphony, Rome, Basle Kammerorchestrer, Switzerland, and the Irish National Symphony.

In America, he performed with the National Symphony in Washington, DC, as well as with the Colorado, St. Louis, Hartford, Syracuse, Rochester, Utah, and Seattle symphonies. In sold-out performances, Frank sang in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Washington’s Kennedy Center, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and Toronto’s Roy Thompson Hall, among others. He was the first Irish artist to have his own show in New York’s famous Radio City Music Hall, selling out its 6,000 seats for six consecutive years. His audiences continued to grow in number and dedication.

His greatest outdoor American performance was at the steps of the Capitol in Washington, DC, when he performed with the National Symphony before an audience of 60,000 enthusiastic listeners. During the centennial celebration of the inauguration of the Statue of Liberty, Frank joined American opera stars Anna Moffo, Simon Estes,and Robert Merrill in a televised performance from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The quartet ended the program with a moving rendition of Irving Berlin’s God Bless America. This song was to become Frank’s favorite for expressing his great love and appreciation for this country and its people.

As the world took note of Frank Patterson’s remarkable talent, Academy-Award-winning director John Huston invited Frank to play a featured role as the fictional tenor, Bartell D’Arcy, in Huston’s last film The Dead, starring Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann. The New Yorker wrote of Frank’s performance: “The whole world seems still while he sings, and for a few seconds after.” Following that pivotal role, Frank was invited to sing Danny Boy in Joel and Ethan Coen’s Miller’s Crossing and to play an Irish tenor in the Neil Jordan movie Michael Collins, starring Liam Neeson, Julia Roberts, Aidan Quinn, and Stephen Rea.

In addition to his big-screen performances, Frank was a veteran television performer. He hosted his own top-rated TV series, Frank Patterson, For Your Pleasure, on RTE (Irish Television) from 1974 to 1984. When Fox Television asked him to perform with Tracy Ullman on an episode of the Tracy Ullman Show, Frank readily agreed because it not only provided him an opportunity to sing and act, but also it allowed him to showcase his comedic skills. This episode, Real Lace, was nominated for an Emmy Award. Frank’s success in commercial television foreshadowed his achievements on public television stations (PBS). Frank became a PBS phenomenon with his three highly successful specials: Ireland’s Golden Tenor-Ireland in Song; Frank Patterson-Songs of Inspiration; and God Bless America, his final filmed salute to this country.

Eily O'Grady and Frank Patterson

Eily O’Grady and Frank Patterson

In 1982, President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan invited Frank and Eily to perform at the White House for them and their distinguished guests. As an Irish-American, President Reagan was proud of Frank’s accomplishments, and as an ex-actor, he appreciated Frank’s talent. On a personal level, President Reagan was pleased that his family also hailed from County Tipperary, only ten miles from Clonmel, Frank’s birthplace. In 1995, Frank and Eily were invited for a return performance to the White House, this time for President and Mrs. Clinton. Éanán, Frank and Eily’s gifted son, joined his parents at their second White House performance, accompanying his father on the violin. Eanan later graduated from the pre-college Juilliard School of Music and Fordham University.

While Frank was honored to perform at the White House, the highlight of his career came in 1979, when he sang at the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, before a congregation of 1.3 million people and an estimated television audience of 1000 million during Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Ireland. Frank was privileged to sing for His Holiness a second time when he was chosen as soloist for the Pope’s 1996 visit to New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On that occasion Frank sang Schubert’s Ave Maria, a performance that was again broadcast on national television.

Of the many awards Frank received, he was proudest of the honor bestowed upon him by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. In 1984, the Holy Father conferred on Frank the Knighthood of Saint Gregory, the highest honor the Vatican can confer on a layman. Frank was also a Knight of Malta and a Knight Commander of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, two organizations devoted to helping others for more than nine centuries. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island in 1990 as well as an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Manhattan College of New York in 1996.

In 1998, Frank and Eily were awarded the prestigious gold medal of the Eire Society of Boston, joining a distinguished group of past recipients such as John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and John Huston. To be given this award as a couple exemplified the unique partnership that Frank and Eily enjoyed in their professional and personal lives. The honors continued as Frank was awarded The 2000 Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking in the Arts. Presented by the Blanton-Peale Institute, this award is given to people “whose lives clearly and inspirationally exemplify the power of thinking positively, with faith, deep caring for people and dedicated commitment to improving our world.”

Although Frank Patterson sang for the Pope and Presidents, performed in the great concert halls throughout the world, and entertained movie and television audiences here and abroad, he found his greatest joy in sharing his gift of song in hundreds of small churches and intimate venues throughout Ireland and America. These charitable events provided both spiritual and financial enrichment to causes that continue to sustain life and promote peace and unity among men.


Open Day at Ballinode Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Open Day at Ballinode Photo: © Michael Fisher

The museum of the late Vincent McAree in Ballinode County Monaghan hosted an open day today (Sunday) from 1.30pm to 5.30 pm. Exhibits included steam and oil driven engines, early tractors, ancient kitchen utensils, old farmhouse furniture, public house artefacts and a door from Monaghan gaol.

Demonstrating the knot-tying machine at Ballinode open day Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Demonstrating the knot-tying machine at Ballinode open day Photo: © Michael Fisher

There was also a book sale (I made some interesting purchases), with funds going to Alzheimer’s Ireland. The afternoon also included live music in the community hall from local star Aidan Clerkin and refreshments. A great day out and everyone was made very welcome.

Open Day at Vincent McAree Museum in Ballinode   Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Open Day at Vincent McAree Museum in Ballinode Photo: © Michael Fisher


Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo: © Michael Fisher

Festival Fun in Carrickmacross  

Northern Standard Carrickmacross News Thursday 4th June

Despite one of the worst years for weather, the Carrickmacross June Bank Holiday Festival was very enjoyable with a good carnival atmosphere around the town. The opening parade on Friday evening brought colour and excitement to the town as the participants, many of them young people, made their way from Inver College along to the Main Street. The theme this year was the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo: © Michael Fisher

The launch night last Thursday was in aid of the Laura Crossan Trust and was held in the Fiddler’s Elbow. There was live music on the night by local blues legends the Short Fuse Blues, with a number of support acts.

Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross Festival Parade Photo: © Michael Fisher

Several local bands played at this year’s festival including Black Tie Event, The Flaws, R U 4 Reel, and The Fuzzy Burgers. After Dark featured local man Martin O’Neill on bass and vocals and the Paulo Nutini Tribute featured local drummer Mark Montague. An Lochrann Linn Band and the Steadfast Brass Band both performed over the weekend. Carickmacross Comhaltas presented an afternoon of traditional Irish music, song and dance.

All the Fun of the Fair at Carrickmacross Festival Photo:  © Michael Fisher

All the Fun of the Fair at Carrickmacross Festival Photo: © Michael Fisher

Special thanks to the Phoenix centre team, who helped out by allowing the teddy bears’ picnic to move inside owing to the bad weather on Monday. The raffle which was meant to be held on Monday will be carried out over the next few days. All prize winners will be announced on the festival’s facebook page. The organising committee would like to thank all the sponsors who contributed to making the event a success. Roll on next year!


‘Stabat Mater, The Mystery Hymn,’ by Desmond Fisher, was launched in Donnybrook last week Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015

‘Stabat Mater, The Mystery Hymn,’ by Desmond Fisher, was launched in Donnybrook last week Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015

From a dissolute to a desolate life … a new look at the story of an old hymn

Patrick Comerford

Book launches are always a good opportunity to meet people with shared interests and stories.

Last week, it was a pleasure to be invited by fellow blogger Michael Fisher to the launch in O’Connell’s in Donnybrook of a new book by his late father Desmond Fisher, Stabat Mater, The Mystery Hymn.

The book was launched by former Irish Times colleague and former Senator John Horgan, who is also a former Press Ombudsman. As a young reporter, John Horgan was given a job at the Catholic Herald in London by the editor, Desmond Fisher, who also worked for the Irish Press.

The attendance at the book launch included Wesley Boyd, who has reviewed the book in the ‘Irishman’s Diary’ in The Irish Times this morning [18 May 2015], and many former colleagues from, the world of journalism and broadcasting. But I was also there because of my theological and spiritual interests.

Stabat Mater is a much-loved Lenten hymn among English-speaking Roman Catholics, although it was once been banned by the Council of Trent and later by successive popes.

The title of this sorrowful hymn is an incipit of the first line, Stabat Mater Dolorosa (“The sorrowful mother stood”). The hymn meditates on the sorrows of the Virgin Mary as she stands at the foot of the Cross. It has been set to music by many composers, including Palestrina, Pergolesi, Alessandro Scarlatti and Domenico Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Haydn, Rossini, Dvořák, Karol Szymanowski, Poulenc and Arvo Pärt.

There are many variations in the translation from the original Latin. So, in this new book the late Desmond Fisher seeks to get back to the original meaning of the author who wroteStabat Mater 700 years ago. The hymn was well-known by the end of the 14th century. It was banned by the Council of Trent, but restored to the missal by Pope Benedict XIII in 1727, and was assigned by Pope Pius X in 1913 to the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows (15 September).

But who was the author? At times, the hymn has been attributed to a variety of sources, including popes, three Saints and a member of the laity who was jailed and excommunicated.

In this book, Desmond Fisher identifies Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306) as the true author, and tells the story of his amazing life, from a dissolute to a disconsolate and desolate life. His privileged life came to end with the tragic death of his wife, and he eventually joined the Spirituali, an extreme, ascetic faction of Franciscans, before ending up in prison.

With a sympathetic and understanding approach, Desmond Fisher tells an amazing story of mediaeval extremism, but also provides a new translation of the poem, while adhering to the original metre and rhythm and re-presenting its emotions. He compares his own work with other well-known existing English versions – including those by the Irish poet Denis Florence McCarthy (1817-1882) and the English Anglican priest and hymn-writer Edward Caswall (1814-1878), who became a Roman Catholic – and tries to challenge long-accepted preconceptions.

This book was Desmond Fisher’s final achievement before he died on 30 December 2014 at the age of 94. In his final weeks, his manuscript was accepted by Gracewing.

As part of the pre-Reformation heritage of the undivided Church, it deserves to be better known among other traditions, including Anglicans. Even Archbishop Richard Chenevix Trench omitted it from his Sacred Latin Poetry in 1874 because of what he saw as its Mariolatry. Hopefully, Desmond Fisher’s new book will help to redress this.

Stabat Mater

Stabat mater dolorosa
juxta Crucem lacrimosa,
dum pendebat Filius.

Cuius animam gementem,
contristatam et dolentem
pertransivit gladius.

O quam tristis et afflicta
fuit illa benedicta,
mater Unigeniti!

Quae mœrebat et dolebat, pia Mater,

dum videbat nati pœnas inclyti.

Quis est homo qui non fleret,
matrem Christi si videret
in tanto supplicio?

Quis non posset contristari
Christi Matrem contemplari
dolentem cum Filio?

Pro peccatis suæ gentis
vidit Iesum in tormentis,
et flagellis subditum.

Vidit suum dulcem Natum
moriendo desolatum,
dum emisit spiritum.

Eia, Mater, fons amoris
me sentire vim doloris
fac, ut tecum lugeam.

Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
in amando Christum Deum
ut sibi complaceam.

Sancta Mater, istud agas,
crucifixi fige plagas
cordi meo valide.

Tui Nati vulnerati,
tam dignati pro me pati,
pœnas mecum divide.

Fac me tecum pie flere,
crucifixo condolere,
donec ego vixero.

Juxta Crucem tecum stare,
et me tibi sociare
in planctu desidero.

Virgo virginum præclara,
mihi iam non sis amara,
fac me tecum plangere.

Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
passionis fac consortem,
et plagas recolere.

Fac me plagis vulnerari,
fac me Cruce inebriari,
et cruore Filii.

Flammis ne urar succensus,
per te, Virgo, sim defensus
in die iudicii.

Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
da per Matrem me venire
ad palmam victoriæ.

Quando corpus morietur,
fac, ut animæ donetur
paradisi gloria. Amen.

● Desmond Fisher, Stabat Mater, The Mystery Hymn, Leominster: Gracewing, ISBN 978 085244 862 5, 176 pp, £9.99.