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Michael Fisher

Michael Fisher

I have written a series of blogs on various topics since I started up my website in July 2010. I have also had some articles published in various newspapers and I have included them in this section. Now in a move to prompt me I hope to write more blogs on the issues of the day and other subjects of interest (including local history), I have created a dedicated blog page, FisherBelfast’s Blog. I have transferred the blogs from here to the new site, but I will leave the ones for 2010, 2011 and 2012 here for archive purposes. So I am now inviting you to take alook at how I have cast my rod and started fishing for stories on a new page. Thank you to all those who have read my blogs here. Please sign up on my new page for regular emails about fresh stories.



Helga Mosey's Grave

Helga Mosey’s Grave

A small stone near a church on a Scottish hillside marks the grave of 19 year-old student HELGA MOSEY. She was among 243 passengers on board Pan Am flight 103 brought down by a bomb on December 21st 1988. The explosion at 31,000 feet and immediate crash also killed 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie in Dumfries and Galloway, where Clipper Maid of the Seas came down. I visited the well-kept churchyard at Tundergarth some four miles from Lockerbie four years ago, as I was returning from Newcastle on Tyne. My younger daughter, then 23, had just graduated. Only now on the 24th anniversary of the bombing am I seeking out the story of Helga and some of the other victims. On a gap year in the United States, Helga was returning to her job as a nanny and hoped to study music at Lancaster University. One of her favourite songs, a German aria “Bist du bei mir”, was sung at her memorial service. Helga’s body had been found where sections of the Boeing 747 including the nose cone fell from the sky, some 500 yards from the parish church. For Helga’s parents, Pentecostal Minister Reverend John Mosey and his German-born wife Lisa, the loss of their daughter was a watershed according to a Daily Telegraph interview three years ago. For them, everything is now “before” or “after” Lockerbie. One of the things they did to commemorate Helga was to set up a trust to help disadvantaged children in several countries, including Libya, where those behind the bomb attack came from.

John Cummock's Grave

John Cummock’s Grave

In the same graveyard lie the remains of one of the many American victims. Like Helga, JOHN BINNING CUMMOCK was also flying from London Heathrow to JFK airport in New York. He was a 38 year-old father of three from Coral Gables in Florida. His widow Victoria Vice President of the Pan Am 103 Families group representing over 180 next-of-kin made a submission to Congressman Charles Schumer when the US House of Representatives was debating counter-terrorism legislation in 1995. Tomas Van Tienhoven from Buenos Aires (and London) is also buried at Tundergarth. The main memorial to the victims is at Dryfesdale cemetery in Lockerbie, where three of the victims from the plane and one local resident are buried (Britton: “Elegies of Darkness: Commemorations of the Bombing of Pan Am 103″ p.65). Three of the victims were of Irish nationality. Brigid (53) and Thomas (51)Concannon lived at Banbury in Oxfordshire and were travelling with their 16 year-old son Sean, born in Britain. Peter Dix aged 35, a management consultant, lived in London and was originally from Dublin. His former school St Columba’s, Whitechurch, has an annual poetry prize named after him. Syracuse University will also have a special reason today for pausing to remember the 35 students who were caught up in the terrorist attack, returning from visits abroad. In May 2000 the trial began in the Netherlands of two Libyan intelligence operatives accused of the bombing and the murders of 270 people. One of them was convicted, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. After serving eight years of a minimum 27 year sentence he was released by Scotland in 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He died at his home in Tripoli earlier this year, aged 60.

Lockerbie Memorial Cairn

Lockerbie Memorial Cairn

There is another memorial where many of the families will be gathering on this anniversary. It’s at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington DC. On a visit three years ago, I remember seeing the memorial cairn which is crafted from 270 blocks of red sandstone quarried in the Lockerbie area. I stopped to say a prayer for the victims and I do so again tonight.               MAY THEY REST IN PEACE.

Lockerbie memoeial cairn plaque

Memorial Cairn Plaque


AFCW v MK at Kingsmeadow

AFCW v MK at Kingsmeadow

A huge day in the history of AFC Wimbledon. A goal in additional time saw MK Dongs aka Franchise overcome the Real Dons and advance to the FA Cup 3rd round. But the Wimbledon players & supporters were the real stars. Full marks to whoever ordered the aerial bombardment #wearewimbledon sign! There was a great atmosphere at Kingsmeadow where several hundred Dons supporters watched the match on tv.

Back bar at Kingsmeadow

Back bar at Kingsmeadow

AFC Wimbledon fans

The bar trade helped to bring in revenue as did the Club shop. I am glad I went there to follow the match and not to MK some 60 miles away. A moral victory for AFC Wimbledon. Two coincidences: as I write I am waiting for a bus at London Victoria coach station to take me back to Belfast via Cairnryan and the first stop is Milton Keynes. A five minutes stop there for a cup of tea was plenty!

Passing Milton Keynes

Passing Milton Keynes

Secondly I was picked up this morning to head to Belfast City airport by a taxi driver whose relative works for MK DONS!! #wearewimbledon

AFC Wimbledon banner

AFC Wimbledon banner




MICHAEL FISHER is a former reporter with RTÉ News in Dublin and Belfast. He is a leading member of the National Union of Journalists, which has campaigned in support of local newspapers in Ireland and Britain……
When a group including local businessman John Harden started a campaign thirty years ago to save Monaghan general hospital I reported on the issue for RTÉ News. The Northern Standard through its columnns kept me informed of their activities and played an important role in mobilising support for the group. In June 1983 the headline on the front page read” “Hospital for Sale”. Since then, the Standard has carried hundreds of articles informing people about the issue and taking the politicians to task in its leading articles. Much attention focused on the actions of the health officials who decided that a general or county hospital did not fit the requirements of the 21st Century. The downgrading of local health services continues to make headlines in 2012. This story is just one example of the importance of having a strong local newspaper, prepared to challenge the politicians when necessary and to defend local interests. The archives of the Standard will also be important for any historians wanting to study the saga of the hospital campaign. Who said what and who has ultimately been proven correct. My interest in the story was because my grandfather as the new County Registrar (solicitor) had helped to establish the county hospital. His appointment in 1937 was in the news pages of the Northern Standard. In one of his diaries he recorded how he sent £1 3d to the Northern Standard to ensure he had copies of the weekly paper in 1964. He would post the paper to my uncle Fr Reggie Smyth when he was a missionary priest in Nigeria. Nowadays people at home and abroad have web sites and the internet to keep in touch. But many thankfully still reach for the hard copy of the Standard once it appears in the shops on a Thursday as they want to find out what happened in the county during the week. An important sections in any local newspaper is the one containing news from the villages and the Standard is lucky to have a network of correspondents to fill the relevant columns. This is where the reader will get a sense of what goes on in ordinary life and the slot provides a useful guide to the activities of different groups such as the ICA or the ramblers. Followers of sport whether GAA, rugby or soccer will also find extensive coverage of their teams in the local newspaper. Or if you want to know how to spend your weekend, look at the entertainment pages. The Northern Standard is one of the few Irish newspapers that remains a broadsheet and also in the ownership of a local family, who have always been dedicated to the cause of Monaghan in whatever sector. Let us hope it will continue to provide a valuable service as a paper reflecting events in the county and prepared to take up a cause when necessary in the service of local democracy.



Faith Matters page 28 Irish News Thursday 13th September 2012.

Six Siblings Achieved More Than 350 Years Service to the Catholic Church

AS THE Poor Clare Order marks its 800th anniversary, a Co Monaghan family has celebrated its own milestone of service to the Catholic Church, writes Michael Fisher. It’s a record of service to the Church in Ireland that must be unique — three priests and three nuns from the same Inniskeen family who between them have achieved more than 350 years in the religious life. Two of the McCluskey family — a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna — held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively earlier this summer at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Mass was concelebrated by Fr Peter and their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years who served in Roslea, Co.Fermanagh and other parishes in the diocese of Clogher.
Sr Ethna is a former superior of the St Louis convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour of the McCluskey family at Inniskeen and Canon Brian recalls how the poet used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Six of the McCluskeys gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass. Fr Peter now lives at Inchicore in Dublin and Sr Ethna at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk. Canon Brian now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire — who used to work for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service — and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago. He still says Mass at St Brigid’s Parish in Belfast. They were joined by two other sisters — Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast, and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun for 57 years and now retired and living at the convent in Dundalk.
Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and, like her brother Fr Gerry, is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life so far is 357 years — Sr Ethna SSL (70 years); Fr Peter OMI (60); Sr Nuala SSL (57); Fr Gerard SPS (59); Sr Aileen RSM (59); and Canon Brian (52).

Faith Matters column





The Kilkennys

Irish traditional ballad group The Kilkennys have proudly announced their tour to Germany in October. There is even a nice picture of the two flags, Irish and German, on their facebook page announcing the news, But hang on a second: there is a list of eight venues but none of the names seem German to me (apart from Bremen, the name of a theatre in Copenhagen). So my advice to the Kilkennys is: buy an atlas lads before you depart. Nul points for geography. For those interested, the list is as follows:

“If you are in Germany (sic) this coming October, be sure to check out The Kilkennys”:

Okt 12*  NETHERLANDS Blokker De Harmonie
Okt 13*  NETHERLANDS Hoogeveen De Tamboer
Okt 14*  NETHERLANDS Sneek Bolwerk
Okt 15  FINLAND Helsinki To Be Confirmed
Okt 16  FINLAND Tampere Tampere Hall
Okt 17  DENMARK Esbjerg Musikhuset
Okt 18  DENMARK Copenhagen Bremen
Okt 19*  DENMARK Aalborg Congres & Culture Centre

The names of the countries in the second column have been added by myself and do not appear on the group’s website. But on another page of their website, they list them all as “German tour” and have both Esjberg and Copenhagen listed as being in Germany! Now I am all in favour of European integration but I think they are really pushing it a bit too far, especially as the Danes don’t particularly like the Germans. Interestingly, the abbreviation for the month (Okt) looks more like a German spelling (Oktober) so perhaps the group are dealing with an agent in Germany and their German dates have not yet been arranged. The first gig on the above list is scheduled for the small Dutch village of Blokker. If you google it, you will find that this is where the Beatles played in one of two concerts they gave in Holland in 1964. So perhaps we can expect greater things from the Kilkennys in the future, once they have got their geography right! I remember seeing them in concert in Dundrum, Dublin where they performed their Clancy Brothers show and it was an enjoyable night.

UPDATE: Following remarks on facebook by myself and a number of others, the website has now been amended with details of a EUROPEAN tour by the group. Go n-éiri an bóthar libh.



Barry Devlin of Horslips

Horslips founder member Barry Devlin from Ardboe makes a return visit to County Tyrone next month to participate in the 21st William Carleton summer school.  It takes place once again at Corick House hotel in Clogher. The 17th Century country house used to be the home of the local landlord Squire Story, mentioned in Carleton’s writings.

The summer school will be officially opened at 10:30am on Monday 6th August by the Mayor of Dungannon and South Tyrone, Cllr Phelim Gildernew. The invited guests include the two Bishops of Clogher, Dr Liam MacDaid and Rt Reverend John McDowell.

Bishops of Clogher MacDaid & McDowell

The keynote address on “Carleton and famine’s darkest secret” will be given by Professor  Cormac Ó Gráda of UCD. Dr Melissa Fegan from Chester will give a lecture about Carleton and famine. The summer school director former RTÉ News reporter Michael Fisher will talk about DJ O’Donoghue, Carleton’s biographer. Barry Devlin fresh from a Horslips reunion gig in Castlebar will then talk about his career at 4:30pm. On Tuesday 7th there will be a talk by Frank McHugh about Carleton’s Australian relatives, and a contribution from Josephine Treanor from Clogher about one of her relatives, Anne Duffy, the miller’s daughter, who was a contemporary of Carleton and mentioned by him.

Leitrim poet Mary Guckian

A literary symposium will be held including Leitrim poet Mary Guckian, Monaghan writer  and poet Mary O’Donnell and Carlo Gébler from Enniskillen.

Carlo Gébler

There will also be a one-man show on Charles Dickens by actor Laurence Foster from Dublin and a reading by poet John F. Deane. On Wednesday 8th there will be contributions by Dr Sophia Hillan on Jane Austen’s Irish Nieces, on Carleton on the stage by Christopher Fitz-Simon and a concluding address by Professor Owen Dudley Edwards, honorary director of the summer school. Liam Foley from Augher has adapted Carleton’s humorous story “Phil Purcel the Pig Driver” for a reading by the Carleton Players.  Evening entertainment has been arranged for each night. Traditional music with the Maguire family from County Fermanagh features on Monday evening at the Rathmore bar, along with a return visit by poet PJ Kennedy, a farmer from Belturbet.

PJ Kennedy

On Tuesday evening there will be a walk in the scenic Fardross area with the Clogher Valley ramblers followed by a reception at Clogher Valley country park. Young musicians from Tydavnet in Co. Monaghan “The Mountain Lark” will entertain the guests. There will be a concert of sacred and secular music at St Patrick’s church in Clogher on Wednesday 8th at 8pm with the Fermanagh choral society, directed by Don Swain. All evening events will be £5.

Fermanagh Choral Society

On Thursday 9th August the annual tour in the Clogher Valley area will be led by Jack Johnston, focusing on Carleton and his contemporaries, including Archbishop Hughes of New York. His original family homestead near the border is now in place at the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh, which will be visited. Cost £25 including lunch and afternoon tea. The four-day programme in detail can be found at: Contact: Michael Fisher, Summer School Director e:





















Maire McCluskey, Sr Nuala SSL, Fr Peter OMI, Sr Ethna SSL, Canon Brian McCluskey & Una McMahon

A County Monaghan family has marked  a significant milestone in the Catholic church in Ireland, with over 350 years between them in religious life. There was double cause for celebration at the St Louis Convent in Dundalk as two of the McCluskeys from Inniskeen, a priest, Fr Peter, and a nun, Sr Ethna, held their diamond (60) and platinum (70) jubilees respectively. Mass was concelebrated by their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years.

Sr Ethna McCluskey entered the Louis convent in Monaghan in 1942, 100 years after the order was founded in France. Her brother Peter who studied at St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan entered the Oblate fathers (O.M.I.) in 1945 and was ordained on June 22nd 1952. Sr Ethna trained as a national teacher at Our Lady of Mercy College, Carysfort in Dublin and went on to teach at the St Louis Convent in Rathmines. For many years she was Principal of the Girls’ National School in Clones before taking up a similar position in Dundalk. Her final appointment was as superior of the St Louis Convent in Kilkeel, Co.Down. Since her retirement in 2004 she has been residing at the Convent on the Castleblayney Road in Dundalk, a few kilometres from her family home at Blackstaff in Inniskeen. The poet Patrick Kavanagh was a near neighbour. Canon Brian recalls how he used to borrow books from his mother’s private library at the local national school where she taught. Fr Peter’s first posting as a missionary priest sixty years ago was to South Africa. His journey by cargo boat to Cape Town took three weeks. He worked in the Archdiocese of Johannesburg from 1952 until his return to Ireland in 2007. He witnessed the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela as President.

Sr Ethna McCluskey

Sr Ethna is the eldest of the family of eight. Six of them gathered at the convent in Dundalk for the Mass celebrated by Fr Peter, who since 2007 has been living at the Oblate house at Inchicore in Dublin. Joining him at the altar was his younger brother Canon Brian McCluskey, a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher, who served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen and was a parish priest in Threemilehouse and later Roslea. He now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire, who worked for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service. Canon McCluskey studied at the Irish College in Rome and celebrated his golden jubilee two years ago along with his classmate, Monsignor Ambrose Macaulay. He still says Sunday Mass at St Brigid’s parish. They were joined by two other sisters Una McMahon, a retired nurse living in Belfast and Sr Nuala, a St Louis nun now retired and living at the Convent in Dundalk with her older sister Ethna. She worked on the missions in Nigeria for many years and in 1985 was appointed to take charge of the Louis House nursing home in Monaghan. She has been a nun for 57 years. Following the Mass, members of the family and friends gathered for a meal at a local restaurant.

Fr Peter McCluskey OMI concelebrates with Fr Brian

Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest who has been based in Sao Paolo, Brazil, since 1961. Previously he served as a missionary in Kenya. He is also a former pupil of St Macartan’s seminary in Monaghan, like his two brothers. Sr Aileen is a Mercy nun who is in Dublin and like her brother Fr Gerry is just one year short of her diamond jubilee. The five sisters were all boarders at the St Louis convent in Monaghan. So the total contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life reads as follows: Sr Ethna SSL 70 years, Fr Peter OMI 60, Sr Nuala SSL 57, Fr Gerard SPS 59, Sr Aileen RSM 59 and Canon Brian 52 years, giving a combined total of 357 years’ service to the Catholic church.  Ad multos annos.


Copyright: Michael Fisher @fishbelfast 2012 This story has appeared in the Northern Standard (front page), the Irish Catholic, the Dundalk Democrat and the Monaghan Democrat edition, as well as the Dundalk Argus.

Fr Peter &  Sr Ethna

Fr Peter & Sr Ethna

Sr Ethna & 3 sisters

Northern Standard

Dundalk/Monaghan Democrat


Sr Nuala & Fr Peter

St Louis nun & Sr Ethna

The Argus, Dundalk

Irish Catholic



Queen at St Michael’s Enniskillen: Photo from parish website

While most of the media concentrated on the historic handshake between Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin, there was in my view a much more important greeting the day before in Enniskillen. After leaving St Macartin’s Anglican Cathedral along with Dean Kenneth Hall, the Queen walked a short distance across the road and was greeted by Canon Peter O’Reilly, the Catholic parish priest. Cardinal Sean Brady and the Bishop of Clogher Liam MacDaid were waiting to greet her inside, in what was her first ever visit to a Catholic church on the island of Ireland. More pictures of the event can be found on the St Michael’s parish website. This week’s edition of the Irish Catholic carries my report of the event under the heading: “Enniskillen PP Meets Queen”. Photo used was by Julian Behal of PA.

Enniskillen Parish Priest Canon Peter O’Reilly was among those to greet Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during her two day visit to the North this week as part of her diamond jubilee celebrations. He greeted the royal visitor at the entrance to St Michael’s church and she was then introduced to members of various parish groups. It is believed to be the first time the Queen has visited a Catholic church in Ireland. Among those present were Cardinal Brady as well as local children and representatives from a number of sectors including sport, farming and business. Earlier Cardinal Brady attended a service of thanksgiving at the nearby St Macartin’s Cathedral along with senior Protestant clergy. The lesson was read by the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson. The prayers of intercession were led by Reverend Ken Lindsay, Methodist President, Cardinal Brady and Dr Roy Patton, Presbyterian Moderator. The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Alan Harper gave the sermon and praised the Queen’s visit to the Republic last year. He said her conciliatory words and gestures had allowed many to throw off the “shackles” that had been loosening since 1998′s Good Friday Agreement, and “positively” to be themselves“.

Enniskillen PP Meets Queen



Security alert beside Derrybeg estate

Part of the Camlough Road from the Egyptian arch roundabout to Monaghan Street in Newry was sealed off on Thursday afternoon following a bomb alert. British Army bomb experts were called to examine a suspect device in what is believed to be the old graveyard area close to Daisy Hill hospital. Traffic was diverted but access to the hospital was not affected. A PSNI helicopter also examined the scene. A controlled explosion was carried out on the package and it was declared to be a hoax. One policeman was slightly injured when petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at the PSNI. Sinn Féin and the SDLP condemned the incidents. SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said the hoax alert which had disrupted the community yet again was deplorable.He said it was compounded by the disgusting acts of those who attacked police with bricks, stones and petrol bombs, endangering lives and adding to the pressure they were under as they attempted to protect the community. He said it was particularly galling that all this took place close to Daisy Hill Hospital and on a route which would affect the city centre, disrupting commuters and, most worryingly, those trying to get to a place of treatment. Events like these do nothing to further any cause and are to the detriment of everyone, he added. The Mayor of Newry Sinn Féin’s Charlie Casey, told BBC Radio Ulster he believed the violence against the police was “opportunistic” and unconnected to the hoax. He added that the incident was the second or third security alert in the area in recent months. “If some of those rioters, or the people responsible for the hoax, had relatives who necessitated going to Daisy Hill by ambulance in an emergency, what were they to do?” he asked.

An ambulance is diverted en route to Daisy Hill hospital