Father Michael Cleary’s Holy Show…

Isobel draws our attention to an absolutely gripping documentary called the Holy Show on BBC NI earlier this week. It’s a re-visiting of a film that the maker Alison Millar put together as a student over several months of Father Michael Clearey, his housekeeper and her son. It turns out the boy was also the preist’s son. It’s quietly powerful (possibly because of the naivety that Isobel mentions of the earlier film) and even though it was only 1991, it has the feel of an age that is strangely distant. It’s an Ireland that in a few short years would change, and change utterly. Best to grab it while it’s still available online.

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  • Mick Cleary was on the great St Vincent’s team of the 1950s with some of the Immortals. So what if he dipped his wick. Jealousy gets you nowhere. Wick dipping was an integral part of the Celtic church and remains popular with our Orthodox brethern. Stop GAA and RC bashing. Mick is where he belongs, in heaven.
    His radio programme was a loada bollox btw and was a source of mirth to the scumbags in the Joy. So your sources are wrong there too.

  • Rory

    Wow! I have just finished watching this film and it truly is gripping. It must give us all pause for reflection that a man who was clearly so loving, as demonstrated by his sermon based on the advice he gave to a parishoner cuckolded by his neighbour which was worthy of inclusion among the parables of Jesus, and lovable, as witnessed by the genuinely fond memories of his parishoners (notably the gravedigger who might have been Rosencrantz reincarnated)and yet was himself fatally flawed by a tortured secrecy that denied the full giving of love to those who should have been most dear to him.

    I should be loath to rush to judgement on a man so universally loved but I would be less reticent about condemning his Church which in failing him, its priest, implicitly encouraged him to fail those who needed him most.

    His own immediate family of origin did not come out too well either in pushing all the blame on Phyllis and the the child for damaging “poor Michael’s” reputation and by inference their own. If only they could realise that we would hold them in higher esteem if they had extended loving acceptance to Phyllis and Ross they might find themselves happier and more blessed today.

    At least the young man, Ross, appeared to be well and evenly balanced and quite a lad as any father would be proud of and his niece who befriended Phyllis clearly is just a treasure, and it is a great pity that Cleary did not accept the gift of loving true friendship that she offered.

    And thank God for the gravedigger – our last true friend.

  • Mick Fealty

    Are you on the right blog dave?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I watched this program and am glad to say it was very well documented and fair in it’s assessment of the life of Father Michael Clearey. As someone who doesn’t associate much with Priests I can say this Priest seemed to be a nice and charismatic man who loved life and God. Unfortunately, his bosses in the Vatican created a system of celibacy (purely for their own financial benefit), that made Father Clearey and his family’s life on earth, a living hell.

    Regarding the point about Ireland changing within a few short years (after 1991), is this really the case? Is there not a sizeable amount of support still given towards the Pope, the Vatican and their dictatorship?

  • Big Bird

    Watched the programme on whatever night it was shown, and was indeed gripped by the story. Fair play to the BBC and all involved in it. Cleary was indeed charismatic and a bit of showman. He was able to portray himself as a man of the people and the parish and the country took to him. However, as the documentary footage from 1991 showed, he was a hypocrite and celebrity hungry. He talked it up in front of the cameras. The fact that he denied his son, right up to his death, shows how fallow the man was. The church knew about it, as he had told bishop casey (what are the odds!!). He is fondly remembered, the way haughey is and bertie will be…. but he was a hypocritical bastard, and deserves no respect from the community he took for fools.

  • Mick Cleary played for Vincent’s with Snitchy Ferguson (later done for PIRA membership), Des Foley, Ollie Freaney, Heffo and other Immortals.

    He smoked far too much and was much too sanguine regarding that filthy habit.

    So what if he dipped his wick. Why are BBC/Guardian types so hung up about sex? Why is this a story now? What is the agenda? Why highlight this and ignore Cathal O’Searcaigh’s corruption of young Nepalese mountain boys? Will “Alison” do a follow up on this?

    Mac an Easpaigh. McTaggart. Good Irish names. Good, holy sperm. His son is well adjusted. We all meet tons of tossers who are not so well adjusted.
    Look at her feeling up Mctaggart’s son.
    I rmember travelling around Kerry and all the drunk layabouts singing about Casey. Kerry had the highest rate of incest in Western Europe in the nineteenth century. Those who slag off Casey are evidence of that.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Saw this programme on RTE a while ago. It was really quite comical, Father Ted sort of stuff.
    Father Cleary (literally)and Daddy Casey entusiastically greeting the crowds and the pope on stage in Galway and no one knew their secret.
    However, sad for the young chap that Cleary denyed him publicly and then with both parents dying on him.
    Father Cleary was our parish priest in Dublin and all the ‘auld wans’ loved him.
    The ‘all-priest’ showband could have gone global had U2 not come along and got the record deal instead!

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “The fact that he denied his son, right up to his death, shows how fallow the man was. The church knew about it, as he had told bishop casey (what are the odds!!). He is fondly remembered, the way haughey is and bertie will be…. but he was a hypocritical bastard, and deserves no respect from the community he took for fools.”

    I can’t say I agree Big Bird. As a Priest, Cleary knew if he was to go against the Bishops and those in Rome he would most probably be excommunicated. To a Roman Catholic this is a big deal, it’s basically spiritual damnation. My heart goes out to Cleary because he had no other option but toe the line with those who laid claim to his soul.

  • jone

    Is Dave off his meds again?

  • Ulsters my homeland

    sorry, left italics open again. [/i] fixed now!

  • Rory

    I too was struck like Gréagóir O’ Frainclín with the similarities with Father Ted. That chat show sequence with Cleary and the show-biz priests (Jesus! get the one in the shiny silver jacket and yer man jigging while playing the fiddle) must surely have been the inspiration for the Craggy Island stalwarts. If this should be so then for that alone Cleary deserves to be remembered fondly.

    Crazy times, crazy guy, crazy church. Crazy bloody country – but you can’t help loving it.

  • George

    If you want to see Fr Michael Cleary and the Catholic Church in full flow in the 1960s, check out The Rocky Road to Dublin.

  • joeCanuck

    Kerry had the highest rate of incest in Western Europe in the nineteenth century

    WTF? What has this to do with anything?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    “If you want to see Fr Michael Cleary and the Catholic Church in full flow in the 1960s, check out The Rocky Road to Dublin.”

    Yep, RTE screened this last year too. It was originally banned all those years ago for some reason I think. It’s a great snapshot of an innocent Ireland. However, how we have all changed since, and for the better. The church will never have such a grip on a people’s conscious again.

  • “Kerry had the highest rate of incest in Western Europe in the nineteenth century

    WTF? What has this to do with anything?”

    This historical vignete, said in the context of Kerry and tourist drunks slaggging off Bishop Casey because he got a nicer piece of ass than they could ever hope to get, is meant to show that bar flies should stfu; they are modern reincarnations of those Kerry folk. Casey, Joe Duffy and Cleary, the Pope’s Galway crowd, are all flawed. The Fianna Fail Ministers and other Mna na hEireann who went off the pill in 1979 for an afternoon are indicative of Ireland’s deeper malaise. These modern women of the three cows and their menfolk and their offspring are the real problem. As James Connolly said about them, surely Christ did not die for these people.

    Casey and Cleary were also victims. When the Casey story broke, the Free Presbyterian Church were far more Christian towards him than the Catholic dregs.

    The Ballyfermot people have good memories of him.

    Paul Williams shows himself to be a cheap media gun for hire. Glad to see The Monk got a payout from him.
    Brian D’Arcy is still going strong. Wot a plonker.
    Weren’t some of the all priests’ band done for kiddy f–king? Just like one of the guys BlackHawk Down was based on.

    Ireland has not progressed. It is still a land of freaks, fag enablers, and Fianna Fail f—heads who blame their own shortcomings on the clergy and laud Cathal O’Searcaigh and his ilk.

  • Rory


    How and where, please, do you know may we “check out The Rocky Road to Dublin”? I for one should like to.

  • George

    I fear you may have to resort to the old-fashioned method of putting your hand in your pocket and buying the DVD (there is a soundtrack of the same name I think). It’s available on eBay and in a few outlets in Ireland.

  • Rory

    I must admit to not having heard of this Cathal O’Searcaigh fellow that Dave has been banging on about. For those in a similar state of ignorance there is this:


    on which I offer no comment but I think I will take the precaution when attending the next local Boy Scout Jumble Sale of making sure I don’t have a copy his poetry ostentatiously sticking out of my pocket (or anything else sticking out for that matter!).

  • Indeed. It seems to be a major problem with Irish stuff that torrents or downloads are not freely available. I tried to rip the Cleary stuff

    Lennon’s black propaganda is here

  • Rory

    Thank you for that link to “Lennon’s black propaganda”, Dave. I must say that I loved it, but do not chide yourself that you might have exposed a tender young soul to the devil’s machinations – Lennon was preaching to the converted in my case -I gave my heart and soul to the Reds many, many years ago and I remain faithful.

  • overhere

    Is Dave off his meds again?

    No but I believe umh has forgotten to take his

  • Rory
    You have “exposed” yourself. A few points evident from The Rocky Road and The Making of TRR

    1. Lennon used his relations and abused his journalistic profession to make the “film”.
    2. He abused the CBS school he went to. In The Making, he returns to the school and seems happy that today’s schoolboy is totally inarticulate; he sees this as progress.
    3. He was cited at Cannes because of the “Red” boycott, which he tried to sabotage.
    4. He interviewed Conor Cruise o’Brien, self styled nemesis of the beloved CJ Haughey (and who used CJ’s tax reforms to cheat on his taxes). The Cruiser was rejected by the irish people and does not speak for them. He is married to Maire Mac an tSaoi, who supports Cathal O’Searcaigh buggering Nepalese boys. (cf the controversy surrounding Kathamndu where all the West Brit enablers defend one of their own)
    5. He makes many unjustified claims for his “film”.
    6. The Froggy French cameraman, whose other work I and Martin Scorcese admire, claims to have understood the Irish and how priest ridden they are. Yet the Frog speaks no Irish and no English either. (or Scots Hun speak). The Frenchman smokes far too muich (like Cleary)
    7. Lennon worked for The Guardian which tried to pin the McGurk’s bar bombing on PIRA.
    8. When they went to Croker (thankfully foreign games free in those days), why did htye keep shoooting the priests? Has Lennon a priest fetish? Did he do a Colm O’Gorman on one of them?