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MY “CONFIRMATION DINNER” MEMORIES IN DOWN AND CONNOR.

Yesterday, we had a quasi confirmer waxing lyrically about his wonderful Confirming gifts.

Every day lunch in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Belfast from 1978 to 1983 was a feast.

Broth laced with sherry as a starter, main course of expensive cuts of meat with red wine as the main course, desert and coffee laced with brandy to end.

There was only one lunch to beat all of that – the yearly Confirmation Dinner – bishop at head of tabā¹le – and 30 to 40 priests as guests.

Fr. Joe McGurnaghan was in charge of buying all the booze from the Ulster Wine and Spirit Company – gin and tonic, vodka, whiskey, cognac, Martinis white and red wines, port, liquers etc.

The administrator ordered the meats from the butchers. The housekeepers ordered the veg, potatoes, cheeses etc from Sawyers, Belfast

The bishop’s chauffeur did the carving at the table.

Waitresses were brought in for the day and Father McGurnaghan was the Sommelier. Lunch consisted of starter course, soup course, sorbet course, main course, desert course, cheese course, tea, coffee and petit fours.

The range of liquers starred Sambuca, Sambucca Negra, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Green and Brown Chartreuse, etc.

The help yourself bar on the dining room cabinet had a selection of whiskeys, cognacs, vodkas, gins, rums etc.

Lunch started about 1 pm and ended about 4.30

The poker clerics headed to a second room where playing for large sums continued through the night until 8 am until it was time for priests to leave for their parish Masses at 9 or 10 am

The rest stayed close to the free bar until they could stand no more.

On one occasion the PP of St. Malachys in Belfast , Father Alex Darragh, having enjoyed all courses with accompanying wine – and who then went on to polish off a full bottle of Green Chartreuse called from a deep armchair and beseeched: “Would young Buckley be kind enough to show this enebrietated divine the way to the lift and his bed”.

He was up at dawn, polished off a Full Irish, and was in his scaristy ten minutes before Mass began.

Those were the days when real bishops celebrated Confirmations and a priest with “canonical authority” was not even a whispered heresy.