‘I wasn’t that good to start off’

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Father Brian D’Arcy, a Co Fermanagh priest who is as comfortable ‘on air’ as he is in the pulpit, hopes to spread some positivity this Christmas.

Fr Brian’s 17th book is out now and includes an uplifting selection of his most requested broadcasts on the BBC and through newspaper articles.

As well as his primary calling as a priest, the 72-year-old has written a column in the Sunday World for four decades and been a contributor to RTE and BBC radio programmes for even longer.

He said: “Round Christmas and throughout the year what people need is a book with a little reflection that gives them a smile, a laugh or a positive thought. From a pastoral point of view it means something that might have been thrown in the wastepaper basket can now help someone when I’m long dead and gone.”

Fr Brian gave an example of positive thought: “I’m looking at stark, naked trees as far as the eye can see. But they’re beautiful, even naked. I know that come spring those trees will take on new clothes again and they’ll be a different set of trees but equally beautiful. That’s the way it is with life, sometimes we look at it and it’s skinny and skeletal and naked. Other days it’s plump and round and beautiful and green and hopeful.”

A mainstay on BBC Radio Ulster for the past 21 years, Fr Brian has also worked on BBC Radio Two’s breakfast show for 28 years alongside presenters including Terry Wogan and Chris Evans.

He said: “I knew Terry before I went on the show when I was reviewing records in Dublin. We always kept in touch. When I went on the show we became even better friends.

“I didn’t know Chris Evans before I went on the show. I get tremendous encouragement from him. He’s a guy who I’ve a lot of respect for.”

Fr Brian said Terry Wogan, Gay Byrne and Eamonn Andrews were among the best broadcasters he’d worked with, adding he would have loved to have worked with the late Alistair Cooke.

Of his radio career he said the best advice he ever received was: “Remember when you’re broadcasting you’re making a phone call to one person, but there’s a lot of people earwigging the same call.”

The Co Fermanagh man told of an important lesson learned as a child: “Where I grew up was a remote country place where Protestants and Catholics lived together. There was never anything other than respect for each other’s religion and traditions.

“That has meant more to me in life than anything – we make trouble when we highlight differences, we become neighbours when we highlight what we have in common.”

Fr Brian grew up in Bellanaleck and left home in 1962 and the age of 17 to join the Passionist Province of St Patrick in Enniskillen. His journey through the priesthood has taken him to Crossgar, Dublin and also to Africa and America.

He said: “I’ve been lucky enough to get a broad spectrum of education and to have been broadcasting since 1967. There hasn’t been a week that I haven’t broadcast in those last 50 years. I’ve been privileged enough to be allowed into people’s homes through media, paper and radio. You have to understand it’s a special position and not abuse it.”

• Gold Collection is published by Columba Press, Dublin with all proceeds going to charity