Sunday 4 December 2016

Singer throws light on Ku Klux Klan murder

Published 20/03/2010 | 05:00

SINGER Brendan Shine has revealed how his grand-uncle, a Catholic priest, was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.

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Fr James Coyle was shot dead in Alabama in 1921 but his murderer, Methodist minister Edwin Stephenson, was acquitted in what is described as "the OJ trial of the early 20th Century".

Brendan Shine revealed he first heard the story of his grand-uncle from his own father during the late 1960s.

"When I was a kid and the Ku Klux Klan would come on TV, my dad used to say: 'They're the fellas that killed your grand-uncle'," said Shine.

But it wasn't until he was given a picture of his parents with a priest by an aunt six years ago that the singer realised the story was true.

In an effort to find out more he began trawling the internet and found to his surprise that his relative, Fr James Coyle, is considered to be a martyr in the southern United States and tthat here have been calls to have him beatified.

Born in Drum, Co Roscommon, Coyle studied for the priesthood in Limerick before being ordained in Rome.

Shortly afterwards, he moved to Mobile, Alabama, and then to the city of Birmingham, which was a centre of Ku Klux Klan activity and where he served for 17 years. "My grand-uncle was responsible for founding the first school for African-Americans in Birmingham, but America was a very racist place at the time and there was a lot of anti-Catholic feeling among the Klan members because they felt their allegiances were to Rome and not the US," said Shine.

However, it wasn't until Fr Coyle presided over the marriage of Ruth Stephenson -- the daughter of a Methodist minister, who had converted to Catholicism -- and her Puerto Rican fiancee, that he became a target. Three hours after conducting the service, Fr Coyle was shot three times by the bride's father, Methodist clergyman Edwin Stephenson.

The story of Fr Coyle is told in a special edition of RTE programme 'Would You Believe' on RTE1 at 10.25pm tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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