Fr Brian D’Arcy was born near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh in 1945. At 17, he joined the local monastery of St Gabriel’s, The Graan, in Enniskillen and was ordained a priest in December 1969, fifty years ago this year. “Before entering my two big interests were Gaelic football and music. They still are,” he says.
D’Arcy’s recently-published memoir, It Has to Be Said, chronicles his life and reflects on his devotion to his ministry in an Ireland in which traditional views on religion, marriage, sexuality, female priests, etc are being challenged.
Best recent book you’ve read:
I have been studying so much this year that all the books I have read are academic. However, I have read and greatly enjoyed a wonderful self-help book The Green Platform by former Cavan footballer and Columban Missionary,Declan Coyle. It’s practical, easily understood, and it works. Some county footballers are using it and getting extraordinary results from it.
For light reading I love biography particularly when it is written (not ghosted) by the person themselves. Telling one’s story truthfully, is not easy as I have just discovered. My own effort at memoir, It Has to Be Said is on sale now. I am just about surviving the naked vulnerability of it all.
Best recent film you’ve seen:
I have appreciated The Joker and The Two Popes. Yet there is another film which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was made by Bruce Springsteen and explains the reason for writing the songs on his latest album Western Stars. I saw it twice. The man is a true prophet and getting better with age.
Best recent show you’ve seen:
Live gigs have always been part of life. As a young priest there were ten ballrooms in the centre of Dublin with dancing to the top showbands of the time. I usually managed three or four a night, scooting around the city on my Honda 50.
It’s all more sophisticated now but not quite as memorable. In recent weeks I’ve seen Daniel O’Donnell, Mike Denver and Nathan Carter perform in major venues to packed audiences. They are just three of the many professional Irishmen who can hold their own with anyone in the world.
I was part of the special Late Late Show tribute to Gay Byrne recently. Again it was full of emotion and gratitude and made for a magnificent live show for those lucky enough to be in the studio for it. Mamma Mia is another brilliant show which recently helped to lift my spirits on these dark winter nights.
Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old):
On a long journey last week I listened to the soundtrack of Les Miserables. What a soundtrack. What a musical. Is it the greatest ever? I’ve also been listening to the songs of Brendan Grace and appreciating once again what an accomplished singer he was.
First ever piece of music or film or show that really moved you:
Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Sound Of Silence’. It’s still relevant today;loneliness is the last great taboo. It can be a killer.
The best gig you’ve ever seen:
The first time Neil Diamond came to Ireland for an open air gig in Croke Park. It was a warm June evening and he came on stage with a hurley and sliotar. He pucked the sliotar into the audience and for two hours became one of our own.
I don’t have much time for TV. I’d rarely reach five hours a week. It’s mainly news and current affairs.
Radio listening and/or podcasts:
Radio keeps me sane. I travel 50,000 miles a year, more or less. Radio is my constant companion. I listen to news/ current affairs, sport, documentaries and music on any station I can pick up. I love it. Radio is informative and less distracting. There is so much on radio that I don’t have time for podcasts.
You’ve mixed with many famous people over the years... who stands out as a memorable encounter?
There are so many it is difficult to pick one. I’ll settle for that day I interviewed Dolly Parton. All went swimmingly until we posed for a picture. We posed. Just as the camera was about to click, Dolly turned to me and said: “Father Brian, I think you should be looking at the camera.” No wonder my face is bright red in that shot!
You can portal back to any period of human cultural history or music event?
I genuinely would love to be back in Biblical times. I have endless questions and doubts about how much Jesus knew. Did he always know he would die in the way he did? Did he foresee how little his sacrifice means to us now? I would give anything to be back there walking the roads with him. I’m afraid I’m going to have to wait until we meet in another place — that is if I can persevere for the few years I have left.
You are curating your dream music festival — which artists are on the bill (living or dead)?
Glen Miller for the big band brass sound, Elvis Presley for the amalgam of blues, rock and country; and Count John McCormack for the magnificent voice and breath control. Count John would open the show. Then Glenn Miller will smoothly swing into peacefulness with ‘In The Mood’, and Elvis would finish his hour long set with ‘In The Ghetto’.
I spend hours every week visiting hospitals North and South. There are whole teams of talented, gifted people selflessly dedicating themselves to caring for the sick. Of course they are underpaid, but even worse they are taken for granted by everyone except the sick.
They’ll even leave their families on Christmas Day. They could have an easy day or they might have ten emergencies. Not even their families will know what went on. Say thanks to the forgotten heroes who keep the system afloat.
You are king for a day — what’s your first decree?
Every family will have a living wage and a home.