The late Liam Clarke

Sudden death is always difficult for relatives to come to terms with. Liam Clarke had made known his illness (a rare form of stomach cancer) but it was nevertheless a shock to hear that he had passed away peacefully at his home in Ballymena in the early hours of Sunday 27th December just after Christmas. Condolences to his wife Kathryn, his three children and extended family members.

Liam was a practising Zen Buddhist and in June 2014 when he wrote in the Belfast Telegraph about being diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei he said: “the beauty of life in the face of death is a very Zen concept. Every moment should be lived as if it was our last – as it could be. It isn’t a delay to be endured while waiting for something better, it is complete in itself.”

The funeral service took place in Roselawn Crematorium outside Belfast on Tuesday afternoon, as reported in the News Letter. Yesterday there was a simple Zen Buddhist service at his home, led by Ingen K. Breen.

Liam was one of the best-known journalists in Ireland. His most recent position was as political editor of the Belfast Telegraph, which he took up in 2011. He had previously worked for the Sunday Times as its Northern Ireland editor for twenty years before becoming a columnist for the paper. In 2014, he was named journalist of the year by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

The Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, Seamus Dooley said: “I would like to extend sympathy to the family, colleagues and friends of Liam Clarke Political Editor, The Belfast Telegraph and a former officer of Belfast and district branch of the NUJ, who has died.”

“Liam was a fearless journalist. He was never afraid to challenge authority and was always prepared to stand up for the principle of media freedom. In the Sunday Times and, more recently in the Belfast Telegraph he covered some of the most significant events in the history of Northern Ireland.”

“As a columnist he was  insightful, authoritative and, at times provocative. He commanded respect across the political divide and his death is a loss to journalism in Northern Ireland.”

The editor of the Belfast Telegraph, Gail Walker, said Mr Clarke had been the pre-eminent political journalist of his generation.

“Just a few days ago, Liam delivered what was to sadly prove his last big exclusive, a brilliant in-depth interview with first minister-in-waiting Arlene Foster. Liam told me how much he’d enjoyed the encounter and I know he got a great buzz from landing yet another scoop”, she said.

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said her thoughts and prayers were with Mr Clarke’s family.

“As a journalist Liam had an ability to cut through all the padding and get right to the core of a story. He will be missed by us as politicians, but of course our grief is overshadowed by that of his family whom he loved dearly and often spoke”, she said.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the deputy First Minister, said he was sorry to learn of Mr Clarke’s passing. Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said Mr Clarke had been a household name for many.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Clarke was a good journalist and a good man. “Liam Clarke is one of the most recognisable names in Irish journalism,” he said.

“That’s due not only to his distinguished career and remarkable work ethic, but to his warm character and his good nature. Never one to give any politician an easy ride, Liam’s enduring professional qualities were his straight-talking style and his dogged determination”, he said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt, a former broadcasting journalist, said he was “stunned and deeply saddened” by Mr Clarke’s death. He said Liam was hugely professional, always probing and persistent, yet also totally trustworthy.

“He was someone worth reading, listening to and following. News journalists do a job that some people do not always like, so the journalist’s ambition must be to earn respect, which is quite a challenge in a divided society like ours. Liam won that universal respect, deservedly so”, Mr Nesbitt said.

Rest in Peace.

The Monaghan Connection


William Clarke, Ballybay Piper

Liam explored his family history and wrote about his grandfather from County Monaghan, William Clarke, known as the Ballybay Piper because of his skills as a musician playing the uilleann pipes. Local historian the late Peadar Murnane wrote about William in an article published six years ago by the Ireland Newsletter:



by Peadar Murnane


The son of a third generation Scottish Presbyterian family who settled in Cornahoe, near Ballybay, County Monaghan where Robert William Clarke was born on 29th. October 1889. The family moved to thetownland of Carga and later to Dunmaurice where the family was reared. The probability is that they all attended the National School at Cornanure until they were old enough to walk to the town school in Hall Street. At this time Cornanure was an interdenominational school. Although the only son and the one best entitled to inherit and work the farm, young Willie opted for a less laborious and more interesting occupation.

On leaving school, he ‘went to serve his time’ to the Ballybay jeweller and watchmaker, Patrick Duffy. He finished his apprenticeship with Mercers of Enniskillen and returned to Ballybay to commence business in Main St. in premises formerly occupied by Marcella Brown. He married Margaret Johnston from Clontibret and they had a family of two boys, Thomas and William and a daughter, Nancy. Thomas (Tom) joined the RAF during World War Two and was killed in action. William (Willie) is a Minister of the Presbyterian Church, now retired in Eglinton, Co. Derry [Liam’s father]. Nancy is married and lives in England.

There was no musical tradition in the Dunmaurice Clarkes but when young Willie by chance met up with ‘The Piper Ward’ from Oghill, his latent talent soon surfaced. Ward introduced Clarke to the Uilleann pipes and Highland Bagpipes and gave him a sound grinding on the rudiments of both instruments and taught him the skills of reading and writing music. Pipe bands and fife and drum bands were a common feature of parish life in Co. Monaghan in the early 1900’s. The Orange Lodges, the Hibernians, the Foresters, Land Leaguers and Home Rulers sustained their faith and enthusiasm through their bands and banners. Willie Clarke was responsible for the formation of the Ballybay Pipe Band in 1919. He brought the recruits together, trained them and raised funds to procure instruments and uniforms. One of their first public appearances was at the Peace Celebrations held in Leslie Demesne (Ballybay) in August 1919. Their band room was in Church St., opposite the old National School which later became their headquarters. This was also the meeting place of the local Orange Lodge No. 211. It was inevitable that an amalgamation would take place. Not every member of the band was an Orangeman. Many like Fred Braden, were members of the band for the sheer love of pipe music. Fred was a Methodist.

It was very appropriate that when Willie Clarke died in 1934 the name of the band was changed to the “William Clarke Memorial Pipe Band”. During his short life, Willie soon attracted the company of such noted Uilleann and Warpipe players as the Carolans of Dopey Mills, near Newbliss; Michael Keenan of Glassleck, near Shercock; Philip Martin of Kilturk, near Newtownbutler who used to cycle to Ballybay for piping sessions with Clarke and the Moorheads from Doohamlet.

Robert William Clarke died in 1934 aged 45. His remains lie buried in the graveyard of Second Ballybay Presbyterian Church.

Peadar Murnane, local historian, Ballybay.


Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O'Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher

Carrickmacross-Castleblayney MD Councillors PJ O’Hanlon, Aidan Campbell, Colm Carthy and Padraig McNally Photo © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher

Moves to amalgamate library services in Monaghan and Cavan by the appointment of a joint librarian will be strongly opposed by Councillors in the Carrickmacross and Castleblayney area. A meeting of the Municipal District Council on Monday discussed a submission received by a Ballybay resident and member of the local library, who expressed her concerns over the issue. She said there was a real fear among members that if the proposal goes ahead then smaller libraries like the one in Ballybay would close. The library service is important to local communities on many levels, she told Councillors, and she asked them to contact Minister Alan Kelly to get him and his department to abolish the proposed amalgamation.

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Cllr Padraig McNally (FF) Photo © Michael Fisher

Councillor Padraig McNally said they had been told the only proposal was to share the County Librarian between the two counties. But he said they did not need such a change as they already had a good system in place. He proposed that the District strongly objected to any amalgamation. This was the thin end of the wedge and next thing they would be looking at the fire service, he said. The county had already been stripped of so many services.

Cllr PJ O'Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cllr PJ O’Hanlon (FF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor PJ O’Hanlon said this was the start of another service being taken away from the county. Councillor McNally proposed and his party colleague Councillor O’Hanlon seconded a motion:

“That this Municipal District rejects any amalgamation of our library services. Monaghan has a proud record of providing library services and does not need to be linked with any other counties or regions”. It was passed unanimously.

Cllr Noel Keelan (SF)  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cllr Noel Keelan (SF) Photo: © Michael Fisher

Councillor Noel Keelan said ‘amalgamation’ was another word for cuts and proposed a motion: “That this District Council writes to the Minister, Mr Alan Kelly T.D., requesting that the proposed amalgamation does not proceed, given how important the Library Service is to the people”. Councillor Colm Carthy seconded and this motion was also agreed.

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross=Castleblayney Municipal District Council  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cllr Jackie Crowe (SF), Cathaoirleach Carrickmacross=Castleblayney Municipal District Council Photo: © Michael Fisher

Cathaoirleach Councillor Jackie Crowe said they were all absolutely opposed to any amalgamation.

Northern Standard

                                                                        The Northern Standard


HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona dár gcairde agus teaghlach! Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to friends and family! I will be in Birmingham on the feastday, Tuesday, which has now become a national festival in Ireland. The parade in Birmingham takes place tomorrow, Sunday, having survived a funding crisis this year following council spending cuts. Meanwhile in County Monaghan and neighbouring areas, various towns and villages will be celebrating over the next few days. Here is a list of some of them:

BALLYBAY: The parade organised by the local Chamber of Commerce sets off from Gerry Traynor’s shop at 5pm. There will be live music and dancing from 3pm. A prize of €500 is offered for best float, with the runner-up receiving €300 and third place a prize of €200.

CARRICKMACROSS: Parade at 3pm. See my report last Sunday.

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

CLONES: A parade with a difference takes place in the town on Monday 16th March. Participants are being asked to come along at 6:30pm to Páirc Naomh Tiarnach with glow-sticks and lights, to light up the route. The parade will begin at 7:00pm along Church Hill and Fermanagh Street to The Diamond, where a fireworks display will be held at 8:30pm.

INNISKEEN: The celebrations in Patrick Kavanagh country will be tomorrow, Sunday 15th March. The parade in the village will be at 1:00pm. Today they were hunting leprechauns in the area!

MONAGHAN: The parade in the town will be the biggest in the county. The parade starts at 3:00pm and the route begins at the Lower Courthouse car park. It then goes along Broad Road, Park Street, Heaton’s Corner, left along North Road, Glaslough Street and then proceeds past the reviewing stand in The Diamond, continuing on to Dublin Street. British rally champion Daniel McKenna from County Monaghan is this year’s Grand Marshall. Participants have been asked to incorporate the theme ‘There’s no place like home’ into their parade contributions.

Following the parade the ‘Gig Rig’ will host peformances from several local acts from 4:00pm until 10:00pm.

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

HAPPY-~1Happy Ugadi Images on

NEWBLISS: The parade in the village is at 2:00pm tomorrow, Sunday 15th March, led by Daniel McKenna, the British rally champion, who comes from the area. There will also be a car boot sale on the day from 12:30pm.

ORAM: Near Castleblayney and home of country music legend Big Tom has built up a reputation for the smallest parade in Ireland. There will be live country and Irish music outside Rooney’s with Paddy King on the stand at 11:30am and the parade on Tuesday will start at 12:30pm from the Oram Centre. There will be a vintage display and a number of floats. Lady Mayor Margaret Ward will deliver a welcome address along with Big Tom McBride at 1:00pm. There will be jigs and reels from All-Ireland and world champion dancers from the Karen McMahon School. The celebrations will continue late into the evening.

COOTEHILL in County Cavan has a parade at 3pm. There are also annual parades in Kingscourt and Shercock.

DUNDALK and Ardee in County Louth will also be celebrating. Have a good day, wherever you are around the world! You are welcome to post greetings below in the comments section, especially if you have a Monaghan connection.

St Patrick's Day greeting card from USA Photo:

St Patrick’s Day greeting card from USA Photo:


This orange banner comes from Redhills in County Cavan. It belongs to the Stonepark Lodge No.607 and depicts the departure of King William III (of Orange) from the original Hillsborough Castle in County Down in 1690. An unofficial history of the Irish Campaign explains how he had landed at Carrickfergus a few days earlier and on 19th June 1690 at Hillsborough the King “issued an order…granting Presbyterian ministers in Ireland the right to receive the regium donum, an annual grant, paid to nonconformists ministers in England, Scotland and especially Ireland at that time. The payment was made as a reward for their loyalty to him and partly as compensation for their recent losses“.  The following month the crucial Battle of the Boyne took place against the forces of James II.

Stonepark Co.Cavan Orange Lodge Banner

Stonepark Co.Cavan Orange Lodge Banner

Monaghan UVF Flag

Monaghan UVF Flag

On the reverse side is a picture of Lisburn Cathedral. This suggests that the banner has been re-used by a different orange lodge. The banner is part of “Walking the Colours“, a touring exhibition currently at Monaghan Museum and running until the end of July. Colour is the operative word as there is a varied selection of banners and sashes from both the orange and green traditions. With all the current controversy about UVF centenary flags flying in East Belfast, I was interested to see an original flag of the Ulster Volunteer Force in Monaghan dating back to the period around 1912/13. There was also a UVF armband from the same era.

UVF Monaghan Armband

UVF Monaghan Armband

 To complete the display of banners from the Protestant tradition, there is one belonging to the Royal Black Preceptory in Ballybay, named the Knights of Mount Horeb. Biblical scenes were common (and still are) in the black and orange loyal order banners. The teachings of the Royal Black Institution are based on Holy Scripture. The organisation was founded in 1797, two years after the Orange Order came into existence. There are two Royal Black District Chapters in Monaghan and fourteen Preceptories. Donegal is the only Ulster county not represented.

RBP Banner Ballybay

RBP Banner Ballybay

On the nationalist side, there are several local banners of significance. They include one of Terence Bellew MacManus from Tempo, County Fermanagh. The slogan exhorts Men of Monaghan to “Remember MacManus”, who took part in the Young Irelander rebellion in 1848. He is buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin. The banner is thought to have been made in the early 1900s. It was brought to the USA and used by the Monaghan Mens’ Association in the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York. There is a picture of it accompanying the group in 1933.

AOH Donagh

AOH Donagh Monaghan Div.434

Remember MacManus

Remember MacManus

 The Ancient Order of Hibernians was set up in 1838 as a counter to the Orange Order. Division 434 was the designation in Donagh parish, in North Monaghan.

Some more banners from the exhibition:-

AOH Banner, Donagh

AOH Banner, Donagh

Truagh Banner re 1798

Truagh Banner re 1798

INF Banner, Ballybay

INF Banner, Ballybay