Noel Donnelly with Monsignor Gerry Fitzpatrick, Archdiocesan director of music.
Knighthood surprise for Noel who is made a Knight of St Gregory
By Ryan McDougall
An 87-year-old man who helped compose music for the visits to Scotland of both Pope Benedict XVI and St Pope John Paul II has spoken of his ‘shock’ after being presented the Knight of St Gregory award for his services to the Church
Noel Donnelly, who is the composer behind many pieces of music used by the Catholic Church in Scotland and beyond, joked that he was ‘still recovering from the embarrassment and shock’ of receiving the unexpected award.
“I really wasn’t expecting it. I kept thinking there must have been a mistake somewhere in the Vatican offices,” Mr Donnelly laughed.
He received his certificate on Palm Sunday at St Leo the Great Church in Glasgow Archdiocese to the joy of the parishioners and parish priest Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick.
Mr Donnelly’s works include creating music for the two most recent papal visits to the UK and the composition of 70 pieces of religious music still used in the archdiocese.
He specialises in Psalms written in melody style.
“I’ve got three big things in my life,” he said. “Family, of course, then music and sacred scripture which is most important to me.”
The Knights of St Gregory award is given in recognition of various services to the Church. It was established in 1891 by St Pope Gregory XI.
In his earlier career, Mr Donnelly, pictured right, lives in Dumbarton and was a teacher in secondary schools and later become a senior lecturer in biblical studies in Craiglockhart and St Andrew’s Colleges.
He also taught adult religious education in various countries, focusing on Catechist formation.
Mr Donnelly said he knows of just one other person in Scotland who has received the St Gregory Award.
“I’m delighted to have this rare award,” he said.
He added that he plans to keep on making music for as long as he can, saying: “I’m in my 87th year, but I’ve found you never really retire—there’s always something to do. The next thing I’ve got going ahead will be to do with the training of deacons in Kinnoull.
“My friends keep joking with me about the award, saying things like, ‘When are you getting a horse?’ because of the knight connection,” he laughed.
Parish priest Mgr Gerry Fitzpatrick said Mr Donnelly’s new knighthood to St Gregory is a ‘very fitting appointment’ due to a hymn he wrote in 2004 to mark the saint’s 14th centenary.
Mgr Fitzpatrick added that the new knight’s ‘contribution to the life of the Church in Scotland is so immense,’ citing Mr Donnelly’s teacher training and ecumenical work.
Mgr Fitzpatrick also mentioned his contribution to Christian radio station radioalba.org, as well as his choir work and beyond. “The list is endless,” he said.
- Source: Scottish Catholic Observer