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Dad’s pride at son’s Kilmainham Gaol performance

June 24, 2019

By Diarmúid Pepper

 Eleven-year-old James McCann, a pupil of St. Joseph’s Primary School in Bessbrook, was awarded a wonderful and unforgettable experience recently when he was afforded the opportunity to sing ‘Grace’ in the world-renowned Kilmainham Gaol.

Kilmainham Gaol was the setting for the famous 1993 classic “In The Name of The Father” starring Daniel Day Lewis, but it was James’s time to shine on a recent school trip to the Dublin institution. 

 The Examiner spoke to James’s father Colm after his star performance, which can be seen on the Shane O’Neills Camloch Facebook page. 

 “James was learning all about the history of the 1916 Easter Rising, and his teacher Mr Philip McGovern informed him that they were planning a trip to Kilmainham Gaol,” Colm explained.

 “Mr McGovern happened to say to James a few weeks before, almost off the cuff: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if you got a chance to sing ‘Grace’? Make sure you learn it and know it well’.

 “He was only joking and he didn’t think there would be a chance. He didn’t know if it would even be allowed or not.”

Kilmainham Gaol is the location where many of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising were executed. 

 It was also the location of the wedding of Joseph Plunkett and Grace Gifford.

 Seven hours before being facing a firing squad, Joseph married Grace in the prison chapel at Kilmainham, a scene which has been immortalised in the much-beloved ballad ‘Grace’. 

Colm spoke of his pride upon seeing the surprise rendition of ‘Grace’ in the most apt of settings.

“We were very proud parents to see him get the chance to sing Grace in the chapel that it all happened in. It is such a sad story, and for James to be given this opportunity was great.

“He enjoys singing and enjoys that song. We were so taken aback by this rousing rendition of Grace that we were not expecting in the slightest.

 “I don’t think there are many who would get this chance, so we are grateful to Mr McGovern and the tour guide who allowed it to happen.”

James’s teacher Philip McGovern echoed these sentiments, and said: “It was definitely a very proud moment for me as his teacher to have him sing Grace in Kilmainham Gaol.”

 When asked if James appreciates the significance of his performance, Colm says that his son has a “fair idea having studied it at school”. 

 “James understands the actual words of the song, and he himself says it’s a very sad and moving song,” said Colm.

 “I don’t think he really understands the significance of what he done but in years to come he will certainly be able to look back and see that he was one of a only few to be able to sing in the chapel in Kilmainham Gaol.”

 “I’m sure looking back in years to come he will fully realise the significance of what he was able to do in Kilmainham.”

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