Monday 23 October 2017

Second miracle of Knock coming to a stage near you

Ken Sweeney

Ken Sweeney

IT was called the second miracle of Knock. Now the achievements of Monsignor James Horan in bringing an airport to Co Mayo are to be celebrated in a stage musical.

The cleric died in 1986, just a month after seeing his dream realised. The airport is now a thriving transport hub with daily international flights.

Mgr Horan's exploits will now be re-told in the most unlikely setting of a stage musical 'On A Wing And A Prayer' which will open next year.

Lavinia Gilmartin, musical director of 'On A Wing And A Prayer', said the production was all about self-belief.

"The message is never give up. Nobody thought Knock Airport would ever come to fruition. It didn't stand an iota of a chance but look at what an addition Knock Airport is now to the West of Ireland. Monsignor Horan's hard work has paid off."

Born in 1911, the Mayo cleric spent most of his life addressing the spiritual and day-to-day needs of his flock. But it was transforming Knock Shrine into a major pilgrimage attraction which occupied most of his time.

Along with erecting a major Basilica in Knock, he was largely responsible for the visit of Pope Paul II to Knock in 1979 to mark the Centenary of the Apparition in Mayo. However, his last great fight, which he began in 1981 at the age of 70, was to build an international airport at Knock.

Originally he had government backing for the project but the exchequer then withdrew support, forcing the elderly priest to raise millions to finish the project -- a dramatic moment recounted in the forthcoming stage production, which producers hope many of Mgr Horan's friends and acquaintances will come and see.

"Monsignor Horan still has many followers around the world and we've included a few of his favourite songs like 'Danny Boy' in memory of him," added Lavinia Gilmartin.

All proceeds from the staging of 'On A Wing And A Prayer', in the Theatre Royal, Castlebar next November, will be donated to support Mayo/Roscommon Hospice Foundation's palliative care service.

The production, adapted by Terry Reilly from his 2006 book of the same name, is a precursor to celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of Mgr James Horan's birth in May 2011.

Irish Independent

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