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Tuesday, 9 June 2015


I am just back from a long weekend in Belfast with my son, David.  We saw the wonderful Christy Moore in concert at the Waterfront Hall, did the splendid Titanic tour, met family and friends and reconnected with my old home city.

Just by chance, at my sister Mary's house, I saw a copy of St Teresa's Parish Bulletin (from my old stomping ground) and read about the death, at 99, of Father Fred Hanson, an imposing man with a booming voice who scared the living daylights out of us kids with rousing sermons.  Back in the late 1960s when I was knee-high to a cornflakes packet, a big tall man with a big loud voice (the voice of God?) was a powerful thing.  But he was likeable and memorable and knew how to use his vocal power to get the Church's message across before we all slunk out of the chapel and into the sweetie shop across the road.

But, as is often the case, we childer had no idea or interest in this man's life before he came to the parish.  To us, he was one of our priests and we saw and definitely heard him on occasions, but beyond that, nada.

Here's the piece from the parish newsletter:

FredHansonsscFr Frederick ("Fred") Hanson was born on 8 September 1916 in Belfast. Educated at St Brigid's NS, Holy Family NS and St Mary's CBS, Belfast, he came to the Old Dalgan in Shrule, Co. Galway in 1933. He was a member of the last class to be ordained in Shrule in December 1939, before the seminary relocated to St Columban's, Navan.

The war prevented his being assigned overseas, so he was assigned to parish work in the Diocese of Down and Connor for three years. He joined the Royal Air Force as a chaplain in 1943 and served until 1950. This appointment clearly suited Fred's talents. The RAF Chaplain-in-Chief pleaded that he be allowed serve a further three years, "Fr Hanson is a most zealous priest and has done heroic work in looking after young Irish men in several RAF stations ... I cannot conceive of anybody doing greater work for the glory of God than he is doing in his present position." He was assigned briefly to Korea, but the outbreak of war in that country resulted in a change of assignment to Japan. From 1953 until 1958 he served as Editor of Tosei News (an English news service for missionaries) and NCWC correspondent for Korea and Japan.

From 1958-1964 he was assigned once again to Korea where he served as secretary to Bishop Quinlan. There followed two years doing pastoral work on a temporary basis in parishes in England. Then he was assigned to the Parish of St Teresa, Glen Road, Belfast and later to Holy Family Parish where he served until the year 2000. Fred was a big man, big in stature and with a voice to match. He was generous and kind, devoted to his sister Mary, and managed his long illness with patience and occasional outbursts of exasperation.

I'm glad I spotted the parish bulletin.  It was sad to read about Father Fred but I'm pleased to know more about the man, his history, his experiences and his influences.  May he rest in peace.

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