Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of Clones Canon Helene Steed introduces the ecumenical service in Clones   Photo: © Michael Fisher

Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of Clones Canon Helene Steed introduces the ecumenical service in Clones Photo: © Michael Fisher

Pentecost Sunday Ecumenical Prayer Service in Clones 

Michael Fisher    Northern Standard  Thursday 28th May p.35

They set off from St Macartan’s Cathedral in Monaghan early on Sunday morning. A small group of pilgrims on a “spiritual footsteps” walk. Others walked from the Church of Ireland in Ballybay. At Newbliss they had refreshments at the Presbyterian church hall, before resuming their journey on foot to Clones.

The walk was organised by the Knights of St Columbanus to mark the 1400th anniversary of the death of the saint. The pilgrims were joined by a group of around 100 others at the historic Round Tower site, connected with St Tiernach, who founded a monastery there in the sixth century.

It was a fitting location for the annual ecumenical prayer service organised by the Catholic and Protestant dioceses of Clogher to mark Pentecost Sunday. Previous settings have included Devenish Island, Lisnaskea, Errigal Truagh, Glaslough and Inniskeen, all connected with the development of Christianity in Ireland.

The service was introduced by the Archdeacon of Clogher and Rector of the Clones group of parishes, Canon Helene Steed. The opening hymn was Amazing Grace. The singing and music was led by students from Largy College in Clones. The Catholic Bishop of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and his Church of Ireland counterpart Right Reverend John McDowell participated in the prayers and readings from scripture. The Parish Priest of Clones Fr Dick Mohan read from St Columbanus on “Cultivating Virtue”.

Two students from Largy College Clones speak about their faith during the ecumenical service  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Two students from Largy College Clones speak about their faith during the ecumenical service Photo: © Michael Fisher

Two students from Largy College, Christy Biji (fifth year) and Harry Cleary (second year) gave reflections on what their faith meant. Following the prayers of intercession and the Lord’s Prayer, the choir sang “Walk in the Light” to bring the service to a conclusion. This was followed by a talk on Saint Columbanus by Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy.

Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan's Enniscorthy, giving a talk on St Columbanus after the ecumenical service Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Fr Billy Swan CC, St Aidan’s Enniscorthy, giving a talk on St Columbanus after the ecumenical service Photo: © Michael Fisher

He described how in 615 this much revered and travelled Irishman passed away at Bobbio in Italy, far away from the place of his birth along the Carlow/Wexford border in 543. Having studied for years on the beautiful Cleenish Island on Lough Erne, St. Columbanus made his way to Bangor Abbey in Co. Down where he lived as an Abbot under the guidance of St. Comgall. It was in 583, at the then relatively old age of 40 years, that St. Columbanus set out, along with twelve companions, to spread the Christian message across extensive parts of Europe. Fr Swan said the example of Columbanus showed the importance of the need for renewal in people’s faith. Refreshments were served afterwards at the Cassandra Hand centre.

Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and Rt Revd John McDowell at the ecumenical service in Clones  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops of Clogher Dr Liam MacDaid and Rt Revd John McDowell at the ecumenical service in Clones Photo: © Michael Fisher


Returning from a brief visit to Birmingham yesterday on Saint Patrick’s Day, I flew into Belfast International Airport. I was at the funeral of a former colleague at BBC Radio Birmingham, now Radio WM, Ken Dudeney. I then remembered that 39 years ago in 1976 I had flown into Aldergrove airport as it was then known as a BBC Radio Birmingham reporter on a very different mission. I had been tasked to do a programme about a British Army regiment doing a tour of duty in the North, the Birmingham Gunners. Their correct title was 39 Medium Regiment Royal Artillery. They had been deployed there for four months on December 4th 1975 and served on that occasion until April 6th 1976. The BBC local radio station had been offered the opportunity by the British Army to meet and record interviews with some of the squaddies an their officers. During that tour of duty, H Battery was on duty securing the perimeter of the Maze prison near Lisburn. 132 Battery was on the border at Aughnacloy, manning the checkpoint on the main Dublin to Derry road. A third section 176 Battery covered Lurgan and Criagavon. Thus it was that on St Patrick’s Day in April 1976 I spent the night at the British Army base at HMP Maze. More of this story later.


A5 Western Transit Corridor  Photo: Mouchel

A5 Western Transit Corridor Photo: Mouchel

The A5 dualling scheme from the border at Aughnacloy to Derry (described as a ‘motorway’ by Sinn Féin) is like a STOP/GO/STOP board for traffic. One minute it’s on, then it’s held up, now it seems to be on again. It’s reported tonight by the Ulster Herald that Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has announced that the Irish government has agreed to review its decision to withdraw a £400million funding pledge for the A5 dual carriageway. Speaking in the Stormont Assembly Mr McGuinness said the development emerged at last week’s North-South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh.

“We had a very constructive discussion at the NSMC and the Taoiseach gave a clear commitment to seek additional structural funds to restore their contribution to this essential North-South project,” said Mr McGuinness. The Irish government had originally pledged in the region of £400m towards the construction of a new £850m 55-mile dual carriageway between Derry and Aughnacloy, which would link in with Dublin bound traffic via the N2 towards Emyvale and Monaghan. However the funding pledge was withdrawn in November 2011.

Welcoming the announcement, West Tyrone MP Pat Doherty said, “A restoration of the funds from Dublin will reignite this entire project. At the same time, Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the North’s Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy to ensure the legal issues which have delayed the northern end of the project are expedited without delay.”



Scene of ATM raid at supermarket in Aughnacloy Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Scene of ATM raid at supermarket in Aughnacloy Photo: © Michael Fisher

Gardaí in County Monaghan and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are investigating an apparent attempt to steal a cash machine on the main street in Aughnacloy, County Tyrone. A large digger was used to ram the ATM at the front of a supermarket at Pound Hill early on Wednesday morning. A forensic team has been examining the scene to establish the extent of the damage. At this stage it’s not believed that any cash was taken. Police are investigating a possible link to a trailer abandoned on the Ravella Road in Aughnacloy, a short distance from the border with County Monaghan.

Police examine scene of attempted raid in Aughnacloy Photo: © Michael Fisher

Police examine scene of attempted raid in Aughnacloy Photo: © Michael Fisher



Aidan McAnespie

The killing of Aidan McAnespie (24) at a border checkpoint outside Aughnacloy in County Tyrone 25 years ago today was one of the most controversial killings during the “troubles”.  It led to a diplomatic row between London and Dublin. At the request of Charles Haughey’s government, Deputy Garda Commissioner Eugene Crowley was sent to Monaghan to investigate, although his report was never made public. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said the Irish government could investigate anything it wished, but not North of the border.

Grenadier Guardsman David Holden claimed his hands were wet after cleaning the sangar in the watchtower and that he had accidentally fired three rounds from a heavy machine gun as he moved it. Three days after the shooting Guardsman Holden appeared at Cookstown magistrates court where he was charged with the unlawful killing of Mr McAnespie. The same day, Irish and British Ministers held an Anglo-Irish conference in Dublin.

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Memorial near Aghaloo GFC

I remember seeing the soldier standing in the dock as the charge was put to him. His lawyer said he would plead innocent to the charge. The magistrate remanded him into police custody. The charge was withdrawn six months later after a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions on the basis that in his judgement there was insufficient evidence to sustain it.

Twenty years after the killing, a PSNI Historical Enquiries Team report concluded that the soldier’s account of events that the fatal shot which hit Aidan in the back was “a tragic accident” was the least likely explanation of what had occurred. The report said that:-

an impartial and independent observer must question the likelihood of an accidental random discharge striking the roadway only a few feet behind what would be from the vantage point of the machine gun post a miniscule figure at a distance of 283.4 meters. The statistical odds, as outlined by (an) independent ballistic expert…..are strongly against the accidental discharge theory.”

This finding in October 2008 brought huge relief to the McAnespie family. His niece Una McCabe said the claim that Aidan had been killed by a ricochet bullet fired at random because a soldier had wet slippy fingers which inadvertently came in contact with the trigger and that Aidan was not being tracked at that precise moment had been firmly rebutted. She said the official scenario, as accepted by the British Army and the prosecution service, could be regarded as so remote that it could be virtually disregarded.

The memory of Aidan lives on. Tonight the former Tyrone football star and current Fermanagh manager Peter Canavan will be in Aughnacloy to address a candlelit vigil near the spot where Aidan died. Alongside the road where he was killed, there is a small stone memorial and a cross, which has been freshly painted. This evening a crowd will assemble beside the site of the former lookout post, which dominated the main  road to Dublin.

Roadside Cross

Roadside Cross

Speaking ahead of the event, Peter Canavan said the killing of Aidan had sent huge shock waves around the country. He said the GAA community, particularly in counties Tyrone and Monaghan, had been stunned that one of its members had been callously cut down following what he said had been years of threats and torment by the British army.

Outside the McAnespie house in Aughnacloy flies the flag of the largest GAA Club in Boston in the United States. It is named after Aidan, a sign of how his death took on international significance. His mother Elizabeth and his sister Eilish have now passed away. But his father John remembers how in the few months before the incident, his wife always used to walk with Aidan to and from the security checkpoint, when he was going to work in Monaghan, or returning. He said Aidan always used to park his car beyond the watchtower, close to the GAA Club, because of the continual harassment he used to get from soldiers, who tracked his movements. A year before the incident, John McAnespie was stopped by a British soldier at the checkpoint, who told him: “We have a bullet here (in the gun) for him”. 

John McAnespie

John McAnespie

On that day on Sunday February 21st  1988 the Aghaloo Gaelic football team from Aughnacloy, whose pitch is alongside the main road and close to the border with County Monaghan was due to play Killeeshil. Aidan had been walking past the checkpoint and was on his way to the club when he was killed. To mark the anniversary a number of Aghaloo and Killeeshil players from that era, with others, will line out on Saturday 23rd February at 4.00pm to compete for the Aidan McAnespie Trophy. The event will be attended by leading GAA personalities and officials, including Tyrone County Chair Ciaran McLaughlin, Ulster GAA Secretary Danny Murphy and the former GAA President, Dr Mick Loftus from Mayo.

Aghaloo GFC

Aghaloo GFC

Northern Standard report 21/02/13

Northern Standard report 21/02/13


William Carleton's Grave

William Carleton’s Grave

Commemorating the 144th anniversary of the death in January 1869 of the leading Irish author William Carleton last weekend, I laid flowers at his grave at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. It also gave a group of us an opportunity to visit the graves of several other famous Irish people. The graveyard contains one of the finest collections of Victorian memorials, tombs, vaults and crypts in Ireland.

Carleton’s last resting place is relatively easy to find, as it is on close to the main avenue leading up to the church, on the right hand side. It is marked by a small obelisk, raised ‘to mark the place wherein rest the remains of one whose memory needs neither graven stone nor sculptured marble to preserve it from oblivion’. It includes a sculptured portrait of Carleton by James Cahill, set in stone. It was restored and unveiled on 15th August 1989, thanks to the William Carleton Memorial Committee that included the writer Benedict Kiely, Barbara Hayley (NUI Maynooth) and Vivien Igoe. In her book, “A Literary Guide to Dublin“, Methuen 1994, she recalls how:-

“Kiely said in his oration that Carleton, as a novelist, had taken up the issues of tenants’ rights, emigration and famine and had put down on record the Irish people as he remembered them before the famine, before they were practically wiped out. Irish people have not much changed, he said”.   

Sir William Wilde grave

Sir William Wilde grave

The next significant grave close to the entrance to the church is that of Dr William Wilde, eye and ear surgeon, father of Oscar and husband of Lady Jane Wilde, neé Elgee. She was an important figure in her own right, a poet and writer, who published under the name “Speranza” and played a part in the Irish literary revival. Oscar is buried in Paris. The side of the memorial carries the inscription: “In Memoriam Jane Francesca, Lady Wilde, ‘Speranza’ of The Nation, Writer, Translator, Poet and Nationalist, Author of Works on Irish Folklore, Early Advocate of Equality for Women and Founder of a Leading Literary Salon. Born Dublin 27 December 1821              Died London 3 February 1896.  Wife of Sir William and Mother of William Charles Kingsbury Wilde, Barrister and Journalist 1852-1899 Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, Poet Wit and Dramatist 1854-1900 Isola Francesca Emily Wilde 1857-1867 “Tread lightly, she is near, Under the snow, Speak gently, she can hear The lilies grow“.

JM Synge grave

JM Synge grave

Another important figure in the Irish literary renaissance was the playright, John Millington Synge. His grave was more difficult to find. Synge was born in Rathfarnham, Co.Dublin on April 16th 1871 and died on March 24th 1909. He is best known for writing “The Playboy of the Western World“.  His brother, Reverend Samuel Synge who was a missionary in China is also buried there along with his wife Mary and his aunt Jane, second daughter of John Hatch Synge of Glanmore, Co.Wicklow.

Jack B. Yeats grave

Jack B. Yeats grave

WB Yeats was another leading figure in the Irish literary revival. His grave is in Drumcliff churchyard, under bare Ben Bulben’s head in Co.Sligo. But his brother, the painter Jack Butler Yeats, lies in Mount Jerome. He died on March 28th 1957, although the faded bronze lettering on the tombstone makes his grave difficult to spot. He was elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1916. In 1999 one of his paintings was sold at Sotheby’s in London (where he was born in 1871) for over £1.2 million pounds. His wife Mary Cottenham Yeats predeceased him by ten years.

Buried in a different section is another member of the RHA, Sarah Purser. One of her paintings of a coastal scene in the West of Ireland was sold by Ross’s auctioneers of Belfast in 2007 f0r £2400. Not far from her grave is buried the writer Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, but his exact burial spot could not be found, despite the assistance of a map. I think I saw two graves lying side by side near a tree and next to the path, but I could not find any inscription on the stones.

Sarah Purser grave

Sarah Purser grave

While wandering around I noticed a Celtic Cross and looked at the inscription. It turned out that the person buried there, James Hamilton Moore,  came from Aughnacloy, Co.Tyrone where some of my relatives on my mother’s side come from. Further research revealed his name in the British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland in a report on the (sectarian) riots in Belfast in July and September 1857. It seems things have not changed much in over 150 years! Moore is listed in an Appendix as part of evidence presented on behalf of the Orange Society (Order), of which he was a senior member.

James Hamilton Moore grave

James Hamilton Moore grave

Moore was Grand Treasurer of the Trinity College Grand District and was a solicitor with an address at 56 Lower Gardiner Street in Dublin (then a fashionable Georgian street). He is also listed as Deputy Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland which met at Molesworth Street in Dublin in November 1856 and his address is given as Gardina Lodge, Monkstown, Co. Dublin.  So next time you have to attend a funeral or cremation at Mount Jerome, take the opportunity to think of all the others who found their place of eternal rest there. They include the writer AE (George Russell), Benjamin Guinness of the brewing family and Sir William Rowan Hamilton, mathematician and astronomer. Since the 1920s Catholics have been buried at the cemetery. In 1994 the remains of the well-known criminal Martin Cahill “The General” were brought there and his grave is now unmarked owing to vandalism.