Belfast Telegraph

Canon Noel Battye, unique voice of radio’s Sounds Sacred for 33 years


Canon Noel Battye
Canon Noel Battye

By Staff Reporter

Canon Noel Battye, who died on Sunday at the age of 76, will be remembered for his devoted ministry and pastoral care alongside his role as a highly respected broadcaster.

In April 2018, the retired Church of Ireland minister presented his last edition of Sounds Sacred on BBC Radio Ulster, having fronted the long-running religious music programme on Sunday evenings for 33 years.

Born in 1942, the Co Waterford native was ordained in 1966 after graduating from Trinity College Dublin.

Mr Battye's first ministry was at St Anne's Church in Dungannon and he also taught at the town's Royal School.

He then went to Edinburgh University to gain various qualifications in teaching and religious education, and on his return to Northern Ireland became curate at St Jude's Church in Ballynafeigh, south Belfast.

He was later appointed chaplain at Pembroke College in Cambridge University and also spent two summers as a stand-in chaplain at Crumlin Road gaol in Belfast.

After serving in Knocknagoney Parish in east Belfast, in the autumn of 1980 Mr Battye became only the third rector of St Finnian's in Belfast's Cregagh area, where he was to remain until his retirement in December 2008.

This week parishioners at St Finnian's fondly remembered his 28 years of devoted service where his presence enriched the parish and his vision, expressed through his gift of language, inspired the congregation.

Mr Battye was also Prebendary of Castleknock on the Chapter of St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin from 1994 until he retired 11 years ago.

It was back in 1985 that he was invited to host Sounds Sacred by the late Fr Jim Skelly, the then head of religious programmes at BBC NI.

During his time at the BBC, Mr Battye also hosted Sunday Half Hour for BBC Radio 2 for 15 years as well as This is the Day, a live Sunday morning programme on BBC One television.

For 10 years the programme took him all over the British Isles, from Chester to Norwich, from the Shetland Islands to the Isles of Scilly, and from the Houses of Parliament to religious communities.

Since his retirement from full-time ministry, Mr Battye had also been doing Sunday vacancy duty in nearly 40 parishes including Killyman in Co Tyrone; Armaghbreague in Co Armagh, Killyleagh and Richhill.

Richard Yarr, who has presented Sounds Sacred since Mr Battye's retirement last year, said he was a great friend, confidante and pastor to so many.

"I always loved my chats with him when he'd walked past my desk - often with his rucksack full of CDs - or up in the studio when I'd be working there on a Sunday evening," he said.

"Noel was a brilliant broadcaster and his voice was instantly recognisable - unique, just like he was. I will always remember him with great fondness."

At his own request, Mr Battye's funeral will take place privately. He is survived by his brother and nephews.

Belfast Telegraph


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