After more than 50 years in the ministry – which included performing the marriage of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills – the Venerable Cecil Pringle will retire next month on his 75th birthday.
Almost all of Mr Pringle’s service to God was carried out in the Clogher Diocese, where the former Church of Ireland Archdeacon is currently Bishop’s Curate of the Drumkeeran Group of parishes in north Fermanagh.
The long serving minister told the News Letter: “My last service will be on Sunday, February 25. I have no plans beyond February 28 apart from just taking it nice and easy and enjoying myself.
“I’ll be able to spend more time with my family and out walking. I’ll not have an excuse any longer not to do jobs around the house.”
He explained his workaholic lifestyle: “I grew up on a farm, long, long, long ago. My father died when we were very young so there were lots of jobs for me to do. I’ve never known what it was like not to have had anything to do, so consequently I just keep at it.
“I’ve never been one of these people who took Monday off or Thursday off – perhaps unfortunately – but that’s just the way I was since I was back in primary school.
“If I didn’t like what I was doing I’d have gone long ago.
“I’ve had immense fulfilment and satisfaction in my work. The people I’ve met are all so pleasant.”
He added: “I can’t pick out any particular highlights. For me, I just did the things that needed to be done – whether it was the wedding of Paul McCartney or preaching for the first time in the Catholic church – I just did them and that’s it.”
Sir Paul McCartney married Heather Mills at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan in June 2002. The marriage ceremony at the castle’s church of San Salvator was performed by Mr Pringle, who at the time was Archdeacon of Clogher.
He said: “It was just another day, another event.
“I didn’t approach it any differently than someone in my own parish.”
Of Sir Paul, he said: “He was very pleasant person.”
It was during his ministry in Rossorry Parish – a 25 year stint – that Archdeacon Pringle helped to progress community relations when he accepted an invitation from Father Brian D’Arcy at The Graan Monastery to speak at the Novena of Hope in the mid 1990s. He has spoken at every Novena since.
He commented: “What I’ve been trying to do over 50 years is service to God, which I’ve done to the best of my ability.
“I’ve given everything I have to it.
“I’ve been privileged to be able to listen to people and to share God’s care with them. At the end of the day, no matter who they are, they are all children of the same God.
“We do our best to help ourselves in a Christian context.”
While he said he has thoroughly enjoyed his life in the ministry, he admitted that funerals could be the most saddening part of his work.
He said: “Funerals can be so different. I did a funeral just the other day for a man in his mid eighties who had had a very full life. But then I’ve done funerals for little children who are just a year old. They are very hard. It’s very hard to watch a parent carry a child down the aisle of a church.
“When you come across young people who have died in accidents or people who have committed suicide, it’s very difficult.”
Cecil Pringle was the third of five children of Joseph and Isabella Pringle, born outside Clones, Co Monaghan as the Second World War was raging in Europe.
While attending Clones High School as a teenager he felt the calling to God.
Following his degree and theological training at Trinity College, Dublin, Cecil Pringle was ordained for the curacy of St Donard’s Parish in east Belfast where he served from 1966 until 1969.
From then on he remained in Clogher Diocese – as rector of Cleenish Parish, then Rossorry where he was appointed firstly a Canon and then Archdeacon of Clogher, a role he held for 25 years.
In 2008, he was appointed Bishop’s Curate of Drumkeeran, Muckross and Templecarne parishes.
As well as his ministerial duties Mr Pringle is also interested in progressing education.
Mr Pringle and his wife Hilary live near Letterbreen in Co Fermanagh.
They have three children – Tanya, Mark and Claire, all in their forties – and four grandchildren.
He said: “The area where I presently work is a very rural area right on the border with Donegal. Part of the parish is actually in Donegal.
“The majority of parishioners are farming families. It’s just sad in those rural areas that the population is declining all the time.
“The vast majority of young people go on to third level education and very rarely come back. There isn’t very much of what they’ve studied that is relevant to Fermanagh.”