The popular cleric talks about the highs and lows of his life and career in a compelling autobiography which has just hit the bookshelves in time for Christmas!
Father Brian D’Arcy is wondering who it was that began putting years in microwaves – because of late, he finds they are going far too quickly! Especially 2019. But then that’s not surprising when you consider that alongside his regular workload, the much-loved priest decided to sit down and write the story of his life.
“People ask me how long it took me to write the story and I jokingly tell them 74 years,” he laughs. “I left The Graan in Enniskillen in 2017 and at the beginning of this year I had returned to take part in a retreat with some old friends.
“Afterwards I was sitting having a meal with them and I was sharing some stories from my life when one of them said you should really put your life story down on paper.
“I started thinking then that any of us could die at any moment, or get Alzheimer’s and then everything would be lost. And that is why I started writing the book.”
Father Brian has many stories to tell. He also wanted to get his versions of various events down on paper so that his own family would know the facts, and not someone else’s take on matters that involved him down the years.
“I had to be disciplined when it came to putting aside time to write the book, so every night from 10.30pm to 2.00am I would put aside time for writing.
“There is a wide variety of stories in there from different times in my life, some funny, some tragic, some awful. I handed it over to a professional editor then, Fiona Biggs, who ensure that the narrative unfolded in a meaningful and interesting way.
“I wanted a female editor because I live in a male-dominated world and because of that my whole perspective on the world could be screwed up – therefore I wanted a woman’s perspective to see that what I had written wasn’t toxic in any way.”
Even though he has settled into his new home in Crossgar, Father Brian found it hard to leave The Graan. He felt that in his time there they had worked extremely hard at bringing people together, from different religions and it meant so much to the people of Fermanagh, Tyrone and surrounding counties.
Being asked to leave his home at this stage of his life, and leaving behind family and friends and a community that had stood by him during the “Vatican debacle” a few years earlier was tough, and Brian gives an honest account of the experience in his book.
“There are so many stories to choose from but one experience that really stands out from my life is when I met the Queen, and there are a couple of chapters devoted to it. When you consider that as a young fellow whenever ‘God Save the Queen’ was played in the cinemas I, and other young Catholics, made a point of walking out, then things really had come circle when I was invited to meet her in Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace and to be given an OBE. In my lifetime the impossible really has happened – we journeyed from war and hostility to friendship and tolerance.
“I was one of four people in Northern Ireland who were awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday List in June, 2019. For me it was an acknowledgement that I should continue to work, as I always have, for respect and understanding among people of goodwill.”
Father Brian has a couple of messages that he would like to pass on to Ireland’s Own readers this Christmas.