Faith Matters

Tributes paid to 'deeply loved' former Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher Brian Hannon following his death

THE Rt Rev Brian Hannon, who served as the Church of Ireland Bishop of Clogher from 1986 to 2001, will be remembered for his diligence, good humour and dignity - as well as how music infused his ministry.

Bishop Hannon died on Monday, aged 85. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2007.

His funeral service will take place today at St Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen.

His ministry encompassed some of the worst years of the Troubles - including the IRA's bombing of Enniskillen on Remembrance Day in 1987 - and was characterised by a spirit of peace-building; during the early 1960s, for example, when he was a curate in Clooney parish, he worked with John Hume on the future SDLP leader's film A City Solitary.

Following 21 years of ministry in the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe, in 1982 he moved to Clogher and St Macartin's Cathedral in Enniskillen, and was elected bishop in 1986. When he retired in 2001, he remained in Fermanagh.

Bishop Hannon was a gifted musician - it was said he could have been a concert pianist had he not answered the Church's call - and used his talents throughout his ministry.

His singer-songwriter son Neil, who performs as The Divine Comedy, credits his father's influence and encouragement as the foundation of his own musical career.

In 2014 he composed an organ oratorio called To Our Fathers in Distress, inspired by his father's condition. "The irony that he will never be able to fully comprehend or appreciate my new composition... is perhaps its most pertinent reason for existence," Hannon said ahead of the piece's premiere at the Royal Festival Hall in London.

The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh John McDowell - himself a former Bishop of Clogher - said that Bishop Hannon was "deeply loved by so many people in the diocese".

"His whole character and outlook on life were moulded by a lifelong discipleship of Jesus Christ, so any words he spoke in public carried the weight of his own integrity," he said.

"He ministered in times and places which were amongst the most difficult during the Troubles, yet he did so without growing bitter or cynical.

"He spoke and acted always with compassion and understanding and did all in his power to work towards peaceful outcomes in a divided society."

The future Bishop Brian Hannon, who began his ministry as a curate in Derry in the early 1960s, with John Hume. They worked together on a film, A City Solitary.

Archbishop McDowell said Bishop Hannon had "large affections": "For the countryside of the west of Northern Ireland; for classical music which he played so movingly on the piano; for the family of the Church of Ireland.

"His love for his wife Maeve and for his sons, Desmond, Brendan and Neil, was deep and unclouded. His love for God and His Son, Jesus Christ, was unmistakable."

The current Bishop of Clogher, Dr Ian Ellis, said: "Bishop Brian was much loved and admired for his spiritual and pastoral support for his people, especially in providing leadership through days of disruption and violence in Northern Ireland.

"His patient, prayerful approach and commitment to enhancing education and community life is fondly remembered by all within this diocese, the Church of Ireland and the wider Anglican Communion.

"He and his wife Maeve devoted themselves to all aspects of diocesan life where their gifts of ministry were offered so generously."

Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson - who was Bishop Hannon's successor in Clogher - said it had been a privilege to follow him and "carry forward his legacy of faithfulness and vitality in a cross-border diocese".

"He was renowned as someone to whom community at its most extensive mattered and he played his part ecumenically, not only in Ireland but internationally," he said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Faith Matters