Thursday, 25 September 2014



Canon Walter Larkin
If you were to judge my time in Down and Connor diocese by the nasty comments on this Blog from a very small number of diocesan priests you would have a very mistaken impression.

I had some very good times in Down and Connor and I encountered a number of kind and good priests and an awful lot of wonderful lay people.

When I was a curate in St Peter's Cathedral (1978 - 1983) and having a bad time with Bishop Cahal Daly and two of my four priest colleagues there people used to say to me: "If you're not careful you'll end up with Walter Larkin in Kilkeel. 

Walter - the former president of St Malachy's College in belfast was a formidable cleric and had literally put the fear of God into his lay students and priesthood students over the years. He was infamous for his callousness with the cane. When he became a parish priest he was known as the diocesan "curate breaker". To be sent as Walter's curate was a fate only a little worse than death.

So sure enough - on 2nd Febraury 1983 Cahal Daly sent me to Kilkeel to be curate to the dreaded Walter.

I approached Walter's house on that fateful day and rang the bell. The door was opened by a frail, chain smoking headmaster type who invited me into his large dining room. We sat on opposite sides of a large table and Walter stared at me and I stared at Walter. It was showdown at the OK corral :-)

After a threatening silence Walter said: "Well, Buckley, what do you think of me"?

I replied: "Walter I don't know you, but I have heard that you are a very rough man and very hard to work with".

"Have you indeed", replied Walter, "And I have heard that you are very disobedient and very hard to control". 

More silence.

Then Walter said: "Do you know the whole diocese is waiting for you and me to fight".

I said: "No, I did not not know that".

Then Walter stood up, came over to me, put his hand out and said: "Let's fool them all and be friends". 

And we became friends. Walter and I never had a wrong word. Anything I asked permission for I was granted. We worked well together. I did all I could to help him. He always showed his appreciation. 

Every Saturday we would sit and drink tea in his kitchen - him chain smoking. He had a fear of not getting to Heaven and always asked me to tell him what I thought he would get to Heaven. 

When he was dying in 1998 he sent for me and asked my blessing - and in front of another visitor - Cahal Daly - he told me I was the best curate he had ever had. 

David and Goliath were friends - without a stone ever been slung.

I was on very good terms too with other priests in the diocese. 
Fr Des Wilson

- Father Des Wilson - Ballymurphy, Belfast.
- Father Denis Newberry - my fellow curate in Kilkeel (RIP).
- Father George Mc Laverty - my fellow curate in Kilkeel.
- Father Jimmy Mc Cabe - my fellow curate in St. Peter's (RIP).
- Father Aidan Denny - with whom I was in the Jesus Caritas priests prayer group.
- Father Paddy McVeigh - my parish priest in Larne.
- Father Vincent Leonard - parish priest of Lower Mourne (RIP)
- Father Sean Mc Laverty - parish priest of Glengormley (RIP).
- Father Patrick McKavanagh - parish priest of Holywood (RIP).
- Father Tony Curran - curate of Lower Mourne.
- Father Michael Coppinger - parish priest of Ballyclare (RIP).

- Canon Paddy Walsh (later bishop) invited me to conduct retreats in St Malachys College.

Paddy Walsh

- Father Tony Farquhar (later bishop) invited me to conduct retreats at the Dominicans, Portstewart. Walter Larkin was Tony Farquhar's uncle.

Tony Farquhar

Sadly, when Cahal Daly sacked me in 1985 / 86 many friendships died too. It was difficult to be a friend of a priest that the bishop had sacked. 


Of course a diocese is not just about priests. More importantly are the people of the parishes we priests are supposed to serve. I always had a much better relationship with the people than I did with many priests.

Being stopped by the "Brits"

I was in St Peter's from 1978 to 1983. I loved the people and my work there. I loved:

- Visiting the parish primary and secondary schools every morning and afternoon.
- Being in the youth club every night of the week.
- Working with the "joyriders"

- Celebrating the liturgy and preaching - many parishioners liked my sermons and used tp say: "Fa'r Buckley - you should have been a missioner".

Working to make Divis a better enviornment:

The Hunger Strike Martyrs

From 1978 until 1983 I said Mass regularly at Long Kesh and visited to the prisioners.
Bobby Sands

In  1981 I said Mass many Sundays in the hospital wing for the Hunger Strkers, listened to them and talked to them - heard their confessions. I was reasonably close to Bobby Sands and quite close to the leader of the first Hunger Strike - Brendan THE DARK Hughes.
Brendan (The Dark) Hughes
By the way the administrator of St Peter's - Father Vincent McKinely - tried to prevent me from praying for the Hunger Strikers!  I prayed away anyway.

The prison chaplain - Tom Toner - ordered me not to attend their funerals.
Tom Toner
I was at all ten funerals.


I was curate in Kilkeel in 1983 and 1984.

I loved the Kilkeel people and they were extremely welcoming and kind to me.
Parish Church Kilkeel

My part of the parish was in Attical on top of the beautiful Mourne mountains.
In Kilkeel / Attical I loved:

Visiting the primary / secondary schools morning and afternoons.

Helping to run the Saturday Night disco in Attical - attended by 600 teeneagers from all over south County Down.
Attical Disco Committee 1983
Poor Adrain - first from left has passed away. RIP.

I also had a successful skirmish with the paramilitary group the INLA when they tried to steal the takings of the disco.

I also tackled the part time regiment - the UDR - for harassing and beating parishioners and attacking church property.


I was curate in Larne from 1984 to 1986.

I celebrated the liturgies and preached. 

I visited the primary and secondary schools. 

I campaigned about the under representation of Catholics in Ballylumford Power Station.
Election poster

I was elected to Larne Borough Council in 1989 for 4 years as a cross community candidate and got the second highest vote after Ian Paisley's DUP party :-) - and that in a town that was / is
87 %Protestant and Loyalist.

Taking everything into account I believe I did as much in 8 years as a regular priest of Down and Connor as some priests might do in a lifetime!

And I have continued my independent ministry for a further 28 years since - 36 years in total.

+Pat Buckley




  1. Pat,

    As a younger priest of the diocese I did not know until your blog of today about all that happened and all that you did.

    I was just told that you were a trouble maker from the beginning.

    It just shows you that you cannot make up your mind about people on th basis of what others say about them.

    I apologise for the negative thoughts and prejudices I have held about you.


    1. Friend,

      No need to apologise. I was probably "off side" a long time before you arrived on the scene?

      But thank you for your kindness.


  2. Every corrupt institution has its scapegoats.

  3. I worked with Father Buckley in Saint Peter's when he was here. He started up a folk group to sing at Mass and attract the young ones. On the first Sunday we played Father McGurnaghan came out to say Mass and ordered up off the altar and refused to let us sing. There was such an uproar among the parishioners that they had to let us back the following Sunday. He worked with the parishioners from nine in the morning until well after midnight sever days a week. He was the best priest we have ever had. On the night Bobby Sands died we all gathered at the priests house and he came out and said the rosary with us. We were heartbroken when he was moved. Mary. Saint Perer's.

  4. In the early 80's my mate Joe McCabe was shot in the head and his body was left lying up against the doors of St Peter's chapel late at night. The RUC and the Brits would not go to help him or let an ambulance go to him because they were afraid of a booby trap bomb.

    Father Buckley came out of the priests house and went to help him and found he was alive. He was able to get the ambulance to come in and Father Buckley had to hold Joe's shattered skull together with his bare hands until they got to the City hospital. Joe is still alive today. I do not believe in God or the catholic church anymore. But I admire priests like Father Buckley and Father Wilson for their service to ordinary people. But see very few priests like that around today.


  5. Who is going to start up the cause for Buckley's canonisation?

    Senior (by age, service, experience,etc) Cleric - Down and Connor

    1. Cahal Cardinal Daly25 September 2014 at 16:58

      Senior Cleric:

      "A saint in a sinner who keeps trying".

      "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future"

  6. It strikes me that many of us do not know the real and full story why Pat Buckley was "sacked" from D&C in 1986.

    What did he do wrong?

    If his "sacking" was justified we have nothing to regret.

    It it was unjust - do we have reparation to make and a wrong to put right?

    This is not just a matter for the bishop. It is a matter for the priests and people of the diocese.

    PP D&C

    1. PP D&C,

      Whatever about the past - why would we now want a priest who is openly gay, has hiv and has a criminal conviction?

      Senior Cleric - Down and Connor

    2. What are you talking about?

      Many of our fellow priests are openly and actively gay!

      We don't know how many of them have hiv!

      And some of our colleagues have criminal convictions - some for far more serious reasons than PB has.

      What planet are you living on?

      PP D&C

    3. I agree. PB is honest and open about who he is.

      He has never hurt a minor and has never embezzled parish funds.

      He gives Communion to divorcees - which Pope Francis is planning to do.


  7. Alice in wonderland stuff!! The truth hurts. Tell us about Wales?

    1. Ok. I will do a Blog soon about my times in Wales. Thank you for the poitive suggestion. I always appreciate positive suggestions.


  8. Self praise is no praise. The other side of the story, I would like to hear that. They shown you much more respect than you have ever shown others. You were a lunatic in St Peter so, wreckless and disobedient. I wonder does a good man like Des know you have his photo on this nonsense!

    Older cleric

    1. Dear Older Cleric,

      I was not seeking to praise myself but blog about my positive experiences in D&C.

      Do you think that physically assaulting people, banning them from the dining room and drunkingly kicking their bedroom door at night is showing respect?

      If so - I would hate for you to show me respect.

      Maybe you got the story from the other side? Have you ever listened to my side? There are two sides to every story and then there is the truth somewhere in the middle.

      I was "wreckless and disobedient"? I was wreckless enough to take the side of the people when the clergy forced me to make a choice.

      I was trying to be obedient to God - which seemed to lead me to disobey men.

      I do not think that Fr Des would have any problem with his pic on my site. Des has said and attended Mass here. He was present when I ordained Mother Francis.

      He has laid on hands at ordinations here.

      You seem to know as much about Des as you know about me.


    2. Pat, that nonsense did not take place. Stop this behaviour.

    3. My Friend,

      It did take place. How can you say it did not take place - please tell me how you know? You were not there?


    4. I invite you to meet me and look me in the eyes when I tell you the story and see if you believe me


  9. Great defence of our Bishop in the Irish news letter page. Well done, you should read a balanced piece

    1. I don't really subscribe to The Irish News.

      Why don't you cut it out and email it to me at

      If you want I will publish it in its complete form.

      Is that not a fair offer?


  10. Pat,

    I think your story today about yourself and Canon Larkin is quite touching.

    Whatever else his faults were he had he insight and intelligence to opt for co-operation rather than conflict. And he obviously appreciated your honesty.

    Sometimes in life people who are very different can find a common way to work together. Its a little parable in its own right.

    A Kircubbin Reader

    1. Kircubbin Reader,

      Thank you.

      I liked Walter a lot. He was in fact a tragic figure in later years. I would have loved to have been able to release him from his dark fears.He showed me a lot of understanding and I felt a great compassion for him. I loved to gently tease him and provoke a sharp response from him.

      We had a good few laughs. One day Walter decreed that the three of us priests - Walter, Denis Newberry and I preach about the 6th Commandment (sex) in all the churches. Over a cup of tea after Mass we all reported how we got one.

      Denis Newberry had been preaching up the mountains that Sunday. When Walter asked him how he got on - Denis - with a serious face answered: "Canon, I concentrated on sheep worrying".

      Walter could not help laughing.

      I'm sure he is in Heaven.


  11. I'm quite amazed at the blind, spitting, viciousness some of the clergy of Down and Connor show to Pat Buckley on this blog.

    It says something very worrying about these priests.

    They remind me of fundamentalist Islamists.

    Medic. Belfast.

  12. "The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers".

    Denis Diderot

    1. Yes, I suppose a priest beat up some philosopher somewhere! Did Pat see this also!

    2. I never saw a priest beat up a philosopher.

      But I was there when a priest beat me.

      I was also there when a Belfast PP physically struck a man in a church sacristy.


  13. Dear Carmel Maginness (letter in today's Irish News)
    your letter is referred to by an anonymous contributor at 17.44.
    You may indeed feel the Irish News overdid their coverage of the 'Lisbreen' saga, however the fact that you find the renovated building aesthetically pleasing does not really get to the core issues, such as : Bishop Treanor was unable/ unwilling to tell us the cost, even approximate, the excess in terms of the furnishing (£ 350 handles & £100/roll wallpaper & Ballinderry Antiques ) is not acceptable, and the lack of accountability of the Bishop to the priests & people of the diocese.

    I think Carmel you need to give this issue a bit more thought.

    Priest of Down & Connor.

    1. Can someone please provide us with the full text of Carmel Maginness's letter - either to Blog or email?


    2. Dear priest of D&C, go and speak to your Bishop about this if you are concerned. I had a great day with the Bishop and multiple lay people, who spoke of the same overboard nature from the Irish news! What a wonderful living Church event and great views aired! Funny, you didn't bring it up then!! I did, although in a private capacity.

      You see, Pat is not viewed as even remotely credible and the people would leave as he would go in, this desperate blogging in order to resemble a pretense of relevance is pitiful.

      Pat is yesterday's man for yesterday's story living in yesterday's house.

    3. And Noel is today's man, with today's story, living in today's house - which the bleeting sheep are happy to be sheared to the skin for :-)

    4. Nonsense, but he's not doing it illegally!!

    5. But maybe he is doing it immorally, irresponsibly and against the wishes of the Holy Father?

  14. Noel had some little lambs,
    With pockets deep as pits;
    And every handle that he bought,
    Was paid for by the twits.

  15. If Bishop Buckley and the Diocese of Down and Connor managed to achieve an agreement acceptable to both sides about the Larne house in the Belfast High Court in 2012 - why can both parties not reach a similiar accomodation about all these other issues that are being aired in this blog.

    Surely it would be in everybody's interest to reach such an arrangement.

    The High Court agreement was achieved through mediation.

    Why not mediation about all other issues - especially as both parties are from a Christian background.

    Catholic Lawyer Belfast.

    1. I'm neither a civil nor canon lawyer, but see a major difficulty here. Please do correct me if I'm wrong.
      Civil law is only absolute in that it refers to what is currently laid down by statute and existing judgements on it. It is however, always subject to refinement and change through the democratic processes of new legislation. The interpretation of existing law gives lawyers the adversarial contests to be
      pronounced on by judges and juries.

      In contrast, so far as the Buckley V RC Hierarchy dispute is concerned, the latter don't play by any customary judicial rules But nor do they seem willing to agree to any arbitration or mediation. The root cause of that appears to be that the hierarchy's bishops insist that their law, canon law, and consequent religious matters, are fixed, immutable and impervious to any changes or interpretation. Moreover they alone have the right to be judge and jury of interpretation.
      Unfortunately this totalitarian mindset typical of status conscious bureaucratic Irish bishops, (as opposed to pastorally inclined bishops), has been reinforced by non questioning compliant priests and laity.
      We now appear to be in a process of change from this status quo, as is indicated by the steady drift away from RC religious observances other than the standard rites of passage of birth death and marriages, though
      that too is changing.

  16. Have you heard of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta, Georgia who built himself a USD2.2 million 6,400 sf. residence in the fine neighborhood of Buckhead from a bequest of USD15 million by the heirs of Margaret Mitchell, the writer of "Gone With the Wind"? The news in the States broke around the time of that of Cardinal Lajolo in Limburg, Germany and his own EUR43 million in renovations. Bad press and parishioner outcries induced Gregory of Atlanta to back down, confess publicly his errors, and turn over the house to a council for disposition. Seriously, where do Roman Catholic bishops get off doing these sorts of projects? I know diocesan priests don't take vows of poverty, but this level of self-aggrandizement is disgusting, and is what comes of having state-supported churches. Your Treanor clearly fits this form. I read the articles in "The Irish News," and I don't see the building's being "listed" prevents economies in sourcing: historical committees are often latitudinarian in their requirements, i.e., one need not have GBP350 door knobs or period-style wallpaper. I hope the parishioners will make this event the thin edge of the wedge. Still...has Treanor no sense of decency at long last? Pro tanto quid retribuamus indeed.

    1. Bebe,

      Thank you for your comment.

      The sad thing is that there are still clergy and lay people who will defend ANYTHING a bishop does.


    2. Pro tanto quid retribuamus:

      "What will we give in return for so much"

    3. Bede get your facts correct: Cardinal Lojolo (a retired curial cardinal living in the vatican) was sent by Francis to investigate the bishop of limburg. Cardinal Lojolo is not the bishop of limburg.

  17. Along with many others I was brutally beaten by Walter Larkin at St Malachy's College.

    I'm not surprised he was afraid of retribution.

    Apparently he had never wanted to be a priest but had wanted to be a doctor.

    Medicine's loss was the priesthood's gain!

    Doctor - Belfast

  18. Archbishop Gregory's house was 6,400 square feet.

    Noel Treanor's house is 15,000 square feet.

    Arcbhishop Gregory built a house from scratch for $2 million - £1,225.000

    Noel Treanor renovated an existing house for "a seven figure sum" he could not name.

    Was that £1,000,000 or £9,999,999?

    Priest - D&C