Belfast Telegraph

Bishop Pat is streets ahead on Shankill as he sups in the Rangers' Club

By Staff Reporter

Rebel Catholic bishop Pat Buckley enjoyed a pint yesterday in one of Ulster loyalism's most hallowed halls - the Shankill Rangers Supporters' Club.

The maverick clergyman had been invited to the club after donating two signs from long-demolished Shankill streets to a local museum.

The signs for Blaney Street and Brennan Street honour Catholic priests who had nursed Protestants from the area in 1832 during a cholera outbreak.

Bishop Buckley and a clerical colleague liberated the signs back in the 1970s when the old terraced streets of the area were being knocked down.

There were originally four Shankill streets named after priests who had helped the local people, but two of the signs - for Loftus Street and Meenan Street - have since disappeared. But for almost 40 years, Bishop Buckley had kept his two hanging in his kitchen

And yesterday they returned to their origins at the museum housed in the premises of Action for Community Transformation (ACT), a loyalist conflict transformation project.

"I think the signs are going on display fairly quickly," Bishop Buckley said.

"They'll be on display at the premises of ACT. The signs are there now."

The cleric had asked ACT representatives to take him to the most loyalist drinking spot on the Shankill Road for a pint after the handover, a wish they were very happy to fulfil.

After the brief handing over ceremony, he accompanied ACT representatives - including co-ordinator Stephen Pollock - to the the Rangers Supporters' Club for a pint.

The clergyman said he had been made to feel at home in the loyalist redoubt.

"Obviously, it's on the Shankill, and I wouldn't think there are too many Catholics who go in and out of it," he said.

"I was made very welcome by the staff and by everyone present.

"I was shown around the club, and I was pictured standing around beside the UVF plaques and memorabilia."

However, the visit didn't run completely smoothly.

Bishop Buckley explained: "I was looking for a pint of ale - but they didn't have any.

"So I had to settle for what is probably the best beer in the world, a Carlsberg!"

Still, it was a satisfying way to toast the memory of four 19th century Catholic priests who came to the aid of the Shankill's poor at a time of need.

"Everything passed off well. There was no third world war," he laughed.

Belfast Telegraph

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