Choir walks out after row with church

St Patrick's Church on the Cowgate. Picture: Greg Macvean

St Patrick's Church on the Cowgate. Picture: Greg Macvean

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AN unholy row has erupted at a city church, prompting a walk-out by the choir.

The choir, choirmaster and organist have all walked out of historic St Patrick’s Parish Church following a 
bitter spat with church bosses.

The choirmaster and organist are said to have found it “increasingly difficult” to work with the church administration in the absence of the parish priest, who is away as a result of ill health.

Choir members walked out on Palm Sunday – the start of Holy Week – in sympathy.

The shock move has prompted amazement from parishioners at the Cowgate church, with one telling the Evening News: “It’s just unbelievable and shows how deep feelings have been running.”

The choirmaster, Hugh Anderson McKnight, has since officially resigned from the post he held for approximately ten years.

In a statement published in the church newsletter, Mr McKnight said: “I feel it is now time to take a step back from our involvement and regular commitment on Sundays, High Days and Holy Days.”

In the newsletter, published on March 31, the church thanked him for his “great service over the 
years”.

But worshippers claimed the niceties in fact hid a rift which has engulfed the place of worship in acrimony.

One man, who did not wish to give his name, said: “There is definitely something going on.

“The priest has been off since December and there was a letter from the bishop in one of the newsletters a while back saying that a situation has to be resolved.”

And a church source described the row as like “something out of a film”.

He said: “It’s really set tongues wagging. There’s been a huge falling out in the priest’s absence. It really has been an Easter people won’t forget in a hurry.”

A spokesman for the church confirmed the walk-out. He said: “We are aware that the parish is in a moment of transition.

“We will work towards listening to and caring for all members of the parish community who are experiencing difficulty during this moment of transition.”

The city centre church’s regular leader, Father Desmond Keegan – who is understood to be suffering from poor health – has been absent from the church since December.

He could not be reached for comment.

When contacted by the Evening News, the congregation’s provincial supervisor confirmed that the church was currently without a choir, and reiterated that they were working with all members of St Patrick’s to “continue the harmony of the parish”.

St Patrick’s is run by The Redemptorists, a religious order within the Catholic Church.

It also has ties to Hibs, with one fan commenting: “They might have to get some people in from Easter Road if they need a song. Some of the lads have fine voices.”

Father Joseph Doherty is listed on St Patrick’s website alongside Fr Keegan as part of the parish team.

PLACE OF WORSHIP FOR IRISH

THE oldest part of St Patrick’s church in the heart of the Old Town dates back to 1774.

The building was created for the Scottish Episcopal Church, but was later sold to the Catholic Church.

It was bought by Bishop James Gillis in 1856 to serve the growing number of Irish immigrants who had settled in the Cowgate area.

Canon Edward Hannan, pictured, co-founded Hibernian Football Club during his 30 years of service at St Patrick’s starting from 1861.

A new sanctuary was built in 1898, with a facade incorporating the statues of St Patrick

and St Brigid added in 1929.