Belfast Telegraph

Tributes as radio show cleric Noel Battye dies aged 76

Sunday show: Canon Noel Battye
Sunday show: Canon Noel Battye
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Tributes have been paid to retired Church of Ireland minister and BBC broadcaster Canon Noel Battye, who has died at the age of 76.

His death on Sunday came just over a year after he hung up the microphone on his popular Sunday evening religious music request programme, Sounds Sacred on BBC Radio Ulster.

For almost his entire working life, Canon Battye held down two jobs - parish ministry and a broadcasting career.

He had already retired as rector of his last parish, St Finnian’s Church in Belfast’s Cregagh area in 2008 before ending his long-running radio programme after 33 years last June.

A native of Co Waterford, Mr Battye was ordained in 1966 after graduating from Trinity College Dublin.

His first ministry was at St Anne’s Church in Dungannon and teaching 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 in 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 1980 he became rector of St Finnian’s, where he was to remain until his retirement eleven years ago.

His broadcasting career was varied, taking in Radio 4, the BBC World Service, Radio 2 and BBC1 television.

From 1985 to 1996 he - along with several others - presented the Sunday Half Hour broadcast on Radio 2 from all over the UK.

Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Rt Revd Harold Miller yesterday paid tribute to Mr Battye’s “very effective ministry” which he said was “characterised by thoughtful, warm–hearted preaching and devoted pastoral care.”

He added: “Noel’s knowledge of hymnody and a wide range of Christian music served him well as presenter of ‘Sounds Sacred’ in Radio Ulster for decades.

“He always had a superb turn of phrase and a twinkle in his eye, which could be picked up on the airwaves!

“Noel died confident in the truth and reality of the resurrection, and we can confidently but quietly entrust him to the Lord Jesus whom he loved and served.”

Canon John McKegney, who was a curate with Mr Battye in St. Jude’s, Ballynafeigh, remembered him as “an outstanding and compassionate pastor and priest who had a truly God given preaching ability”.

“Noel was a consummate communicator both in church and on radio.

“For me he was more than that - he was a mentor and friend who was always there with words of wisdom, advice and encouragement,” he said.

“He was a man who has enriched the lives of many people especially in the parishes where he was a rector and through his years as the presenter of Sounds Sacred, where he was a Sunday afternoon friend to many.”

Paying tribute, Director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston said last night: “Noel was a highly respected broadcaster who spent many years working across the BBC and, of course, the much loved Sounds Sacred programme on Radio Ulster in particular. 

“His listeners always appreciated his calm and reflective style of broadcasting.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.”

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