The Rt Revd Lord Eames writes:
NOT long after his consecration as a bishop, in the Church of Ireland, Brian Hannon was to experience at first hand the realities of the Irish Troubles. One normal Sunday in the largely rural diocese of Clogher, while he was on a visit to a parish, there came an urgent call: a terrorist bomb had exploded in Enniskillen, near the town war memorial. The blast had swept through the crowd gathered for the annual Remembrance Sunday ceremony, killing and injuring without warning.
Within minutes of receiving the news, Bishop Hannon found himself ministering among the dying and injured in the Erne Hospital with a quiet compassion that was to become the hallmark of his episcopal leadership in the years ahead.
The Enniskillen bombing is now remembered as but one tragic episode in the darkness of the Troubles through which bishops and clergy in Northern Ireland developed pastoral ministry for which little could have prepared them. Time and again, we found ourselves speaking of the love and support of God in situations of human suffering and human loss.
In the diocese of Clogher, the example and leadership of the Bishop owed as much to his actions on the ground as it did to his public utterances of hope and reconciliation to a people in distress. Irrespective of political or religious background, the people of Clogher diocese and far beyond found in Bishop Hannon a man of courageous faith and a constant advocate of reconciliation.
When Brian spoken of his diocese, it was clear how important the personal contacts with individuals mattered to him. He once referred to Clogher diocese with its scattered churches as nothing more than a “large parish family”. To spend time with him was to notice his personal relationship with young and old, often on a first-name basis.
Brian Desmond Anthony Hannon was born in 1936, the son of a Church of Ireland rector, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained his colours as a high hurdler on the athletics track. He was ordained in 1961 and served as curate of Clooney, in Londonderry, before becoming Rector of Desertmartin and then of Christ Church in the city in 1969. In 1982, he was appointed to the Cathedral Parish of St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, and, in 1985, became Dean of Clogher. His election as Bishop of Clogher in May 1986 began an episcopate that lasted to his retirement in 2001 on his 65th birthday.
The many tributes paid to Bishop Hannon emphasised again his pastoral ministry and his compassionate love of “all sorts and conditions” of people. Throughout his long ministry, Brian was supported by his wife, Maeve, who was herself greatly respected in Clogher diocese and the wider community. Together, they were an exemplary “team” in the service of the Church of Christ.
Brian’s latter years were marked by failing health, during which the care and loving support of Maeve and their sons, Desmond, Brendan, and Neil, were so important to him.
I count it to have been a privilege to be a colleague and friend of Brian Hannon over the years since that Remembrance Sunday in the Erne Hospital, Enniskillen, when I saw for myself his caring and pastoral gifts as a faithful servant of his Master.
This episcopal pastor has left many with gratitude in their hearts for his faithful leadership — but mostly for his example as a loving “father in God”.
The Rt Revd Brian Desmond Anthony Hannon died on 10 January, aged 85.