The Fermanagh priest who has become an internet sensation after he played The Sash at his Sunday morning Mass has broken his silence to say that he did it for "the craic" and that his choice of music was no clerical error.
Canon Jimmy McPhillips has revealed that he has had thank you messages from Orange lodges as far apart as Dungannon and London, who said they had had a laugh at him finishing his 11.30am service with a recorded rendition from his smartphone of The Sash played by an unidentified flute band.
Friends insisted on Thursday that the Orange Order's regalia is not a Sash this unusual priest ever wore.
But a less welcome side to Canon McPhillips' new found fame, he confessed, has been the unrelenting attention of the media.
The canon has been bombarded with calls from newspapers and broadcasters all around the world urging him to speak about his priestly prank. But he has taken a vow of silence. Until now.
"To be honest, I'm tired of all that," he said. "The phone has been ringing non-stop. It's been unbelievable. But I've got my nephew Garbhan McPhillips to do the talking for me."
A priest in Lisnaskea had the wrong playlist lined up for his ending of mass hymn on Sunday. He mistakenly played the sash at the end of mass. Fr Jimmy apologises by saying âsorry I picked the wrong one, sorry about that, itâs a bit early for that isnât itâ. pic.twitter.com/JDrFq6ZNK2— Brendan Marshall (@BJPMarshall) May 19, 2020
Canon McPhillips said the all-important response from his own parishioners had been positive, with only one negative comment coming from Belfast, not Fermanagh.
Just a few months ago Fr McPhillips spoke of how demoralising he was finding it to say Mass in an empty church, but he was looking forward to live-streaming services.
And his parishioners said the wise-cracking cleric has been making a habit of introducing little bits of mirth into his Masses, while not taking away from the solemnity of the services.
Canon McPhillips said: "Playing The Sash last Sunday was just something that I did for the local people and the local craic. But now it's taken off in a most unexpected way."
At first it was reported that the priest from Holy Cross in Lisnaskea had played the recording of the Orange marching tune by mistake at the end of his service, which goes out live on the internet.
And he appeared to confirm that it was a faux pas by saying: "Sorry I picked the wrong one. Sorry about that. It's a bit early for that (The Sash) isn't it?"
But then observers wondered if the priest had been swinging the lead and questions were raised about how and why The Sash could possibly have found its way onto the playlist of a Catholic priest.
That led to speculation that it was not an accident.
And his nephew Garbhan then admitted that it wasn't a gaffe, but rather a joke to cheer up the Holy Cross parishioners in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Canon McPhillips told the Belfast Telegraph a sense of humour was always important, but particularly in the darkest of times like the coronavirus crisis.
"That's what I try to do every Sunday," he added. "I tell a few yarns to hopefully build up the morale of the people. Mental health is going to be the biggest issue after this pandemic."
In March Canon McPhillips admitted the Covid-19 pandemic was "doing his head in" and said he was trying to take one day at a time "because to do otherwise would be too traumatic".
Speaking to the Fermanagh Herald newspaper, he said: "The 24-hour saturation of news, the Twitter and Facebook, they are all doing my head in, and sleep is going amiss at night as a result, so I am now limiting my news time and only searching Twitter and Facebook for good news stories, the green shoots, the glimmer of hope, and thankfully I am finding so many great examples of this."
However, he also talked of the new challenges he was facing in providing spiritual support to his parishioners after coronavirus forced the cancellation of Masses.
But he said that he was striving to stay upbeat, adding: "We will get through these times, and like the beautiful spring flowers popping up all around us, we will have better days ahead." In the more immediate future the priest and his church officials in Lisnaskea are bracing themselves for a surge in people, and not just Catholic parishioners, tuning into the Holy Cross live-stream next Sunday to see what he does next.
Sure, where's the harm in it? We could all be doing with a bit of a lift in these dreadful times we are going throughCanon McPhillips
The priest would not be drawn on whether or not he plans to follow up The Sash with any other tunes, and ones which might come possibly from a different cultural background.
On Thursday, in a social media message, Canon McPhillips invited people to join him in the live-streaming of a service from Lisnaskea. But he playfully added a note: "I promise only SACRED music."
One Orangeman, who did not want to be named in case his comments stoked up opposition from within his organisation, said that Canon McPhillips' ruse was "hilarious".
"It's really great to see him giving everyone a bit of a giggle.
"Sure, where's the harm in it? We could all be doing with a bit of a lift in these dreadful times we are going through," he added.
Another Orangeman said it was ironic that The Sash, which has caused controversy when it has been played outside Catholic churches on the Twelfth in Belfast, had now been welcomed with a smile inside another church in Fermanagh.
It is not, of course, the first time that a piece of music identified with one community here has been played in what might be seen as the wrong place at the wrong time.
I told an amused Canon McPhillips how several years ago I witnessed DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley having to listen to a tune that might not have been music to his ears.
The Free Presbyterian Moderator was a guest at a St Patrick's Day breakfast that I was covering in the La Mon House Hotel at Castlereagh organised by the Ullans Academy, an Ulster-Scots organisation.
As part of the cross-community entertainment a Catholic primary school from Belfast was invited to show off its Irish dancing skills to the mixed audience.
But when the headmaster pressed the play button on the tape machine, up popped Irish national anthem Amhran na bhFiann - A Soldier's Song - which was not what the principal or the guests were expecting to hear.
Every eye in the room turned immediately towards Paisley, wondering if there would be a furious reaction, but he dissolved into laughter, much to the relief of an embarrassed educationalist.
Fr McPhillips was not surprised.
"I saw him on a flight from Glasgow once," he said.
"And he was signing autographs and talking to everyone."
It is understood many fans of Celtic were on the plane.
Canon McPhillips is from Newtownbutler and he is a keen sports enthusiast.
On YouTube there is a short video of him encouraging children in Africa to say "Up Fermanagh" before his county faced Westmeath in a crucial All-Ireland championship game five years ago.
In December 2018 Fr McPhillips was inducted as the parish priest of Aghalurcher in Fermanagh, which includes Lisnaskea and Maguiresbridge.
In February last year he was made a canon by Bishop of Clogher Larry Duffy.
The canon's Holy Cross church in Lisnaskea was given a deep-clean on Wednesday to make it totally safe for parishioners to offer private prayers, in line with the easing of coronavirus restrictions by the Stormont Executive.
Canon McPhillips said the hope was that church services would return to normal as soon as possible.