Friday, 3 April 2009

Nicky Furlong does it again

Patrick Comerford

My long-time friend and former colleague in journalism in Wexford, Nicky Furlong, managed to make me the victim of his April Fool’s prank earlier this week in the Echo group of newspapers in Co Wexford – the Wexford Echo, the Enniscorthy Echo and the New Ross Echo.

On their front pages, the Echo newspapers carried reports and photographs of sharks spotted variously in Wexford Harbour, in the Slaney at Enniscorthy and in the Barrow near New Ross. The sightings were confirmed by no less an expert in large fish than one Mr Ray Whiting.

But you had to turn to page 36 on the 1 April editions to find a report by Nicky that the Pugin churches of Co Wexford were suffering a unique infestation that threatened the demolition of the Pugin churches – and only the Pugin churches.

But right beneath the dateline on the page, Nicky also carried the following preposterous report:

Wexford man’s church promotion

The news that a colleague journalist in Wexford is to become Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin is welcome indeed.

Patrick (Pat) Comerford decided at a fairly late stage in life to study for the Church of Ireland priesthood, having worked in Wexford as reporter and features writer for many years.

He was in charge of the news and views department of the non-Catholic church in Wexford and Wicklow. His face, in bearded dignity, appeared over all his news features.

Pat, as we knew him, was a member of an old Co. Wexford family and I recall him in the early days here claiming relationship at a distance to the great County Wexford and St. John Volunteers’ goalkeeper, Martin Comerford.

Pat, in addition to his reporting duties, contributed many articles on the widely spread Eastern Orthodox churches.

In fact, he spent his holidays in Greece, Armenia, Ethiopia and even Soviet Russia when religion of any kind was forbidden.

He has contributed to many County Wexford historical journals and will have yet another in the next edition of the Wexford Historical Journal ’09 ’10. His master stroke in the 1990s was to research and write the standard work on the Church of Ireland Clergy in 1798 (Buckley and O’Brien, Dublin, 1997).

His whimsical work, ‘The Tower’ was a comic delight in Wexford associations. It is somewhat of a secret, one might say, when he abruptly left his journalistic employment to study for the priesthood in the Divinity School, Trinity College.

He was subsequently ordained in Christchurch Cathedral on June 29, 2001, by an Archbishop with massive Enniscorthy and Co. Wexford connections, Archbishop Walton Empey, now retired and living in Rathvilly, Co. Carlow.

Rev. Pat worked in the church areas appropriate to his talent and was justly rewarded when made a canon of Christchurch which is the Dublin Archdiocesan Cathedral.

He is to be transferred to St. Patrick’s with permission of the cathedral chapter. The chapter of Christchurch has met and has gone outside the normal parameters to facilitate his elevation as successor to the great Dean Swift. Indeed, he will succeed figures as trenchant as Swift.

The current Dean of St. Patrick’s is Rt. Rev. Dr. Robert McCarthy, former rector of Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, whose expertise is focussed on the life and times of The MacMurrough (Arthur) of Borris Castle, born without arms and legs.

He has been known in the national press and on lecture platforms to fearlessly reduce sacred cows whether innocent, guilty or thick. It is said he may return to the south. Please God. He is an impeccably orthodox divine.

The Dean of Ferns, popular Leslie Forrest, who is already a Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (the national Cathedral) and therefore of the electors, was not available for comment.

Patrick Comerford’s advance has been so steady that his colleagues in these parts, being of an excitable nature, have already focussed eyes on a mitre. In any event, we are pleased.

Who was fooled?

The prank was compounded by using a photograph of me on my ordination day … beside Nicky and another Wexford historian, journalist and friend Hilary Murphy.

But the joke backfires when you go to look for it on the web (Wexford man’s church promotion), because the publication date on the Echo website is 2 April.

So, who was the victim?

Already, I’ve had to provide some embarrassing explanations. Well, of course Nicky knows that I never visited Soviet Russia, Armenia … or Ethiopia for that matter. Nor can I be elected Dean of Saint Patrick’s … I’m not a member of the chapter.

Would the present Dean of Saint Patrick’s like to be raised to the honorific of “Right Revd”? And does Leslie Forrest of Ferns know that his name has been taken in vain too?

The next time I’m asked to contribute to a festschrift for Nicky, I better think of a more scandalous and more riveting contribution than my last one.

Of course, The Tower was a more intoxicating novel that any of Nicky's novellas and stage plays ... but he is not alone in knowing why.

And Nicky, if you think you’re going to stay on my Christmas card list ...

I was in Wexford earlier today for a beautiful lunch in La Dolce Vita in Trimmer’s Lane. So, beware Nicky, you never know when and how often I’m back, and how swiftly I could strike back. :-)