Priest inadvertently caught in religious boycott

The Oxford Times: Rev Adrian Fisher Rev Adrian Fisher

A CLERGYMAN and Irish Guards serviceman who found himself at the centre of an infamous religious boycott has died aged 90.

Rev Adrian Fisher worked in the parish of North Stoke with Mangewell and Ipsden, Oxfordshire, for 22 years.

He served in the Irish Guards and was also an Army chaplain.

But perhaps most notably, aged 33, he arrived in Fethard-on-Sea, County Wexford, Ireland, in 1957 to become a parish priest for the Church of Ireland.

At the time he could not have known the significance of overhearing a bishop ominously say to a dean “there’s going to be trouble here”, during his induction ceremony.

He had moved to the area just as it was thrown into a fierce row over whether the daughters of Sheila Cloney, a Protestant wife of a Catholic farmer, should go to a Catholic school.

It followed a series of parish visitors attempting to influence how the couple brought up their two daughters.

This drove Mrs Cloney to flee the village with her children, crossing the border to Northern Ireland and Belfast.

Mr Fisher later recalled angry Catholic clergy demanding that Mrs Cloney be brought back.

They then commanded their followers in the village to boycott all Protestant businesses. After a brutal year it was called off, when a Catholic priest made peace by buying a pack of cigarettes from a Protestant-owned newsagent.

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Sheila Cloney eventually returned home in 1958 and she and her husband home-schooled their children.

Friends said Mr Fisher behaved with dignity and composure during the time. He was later interviewed about the experience by historians and journalists.

Much of his written correspondence from the time now resides in University College Dublin.

The events would also become the subject of a film, A Love Divided, and numerous books.

Adrian Charles Procter Fisher was born to Charles and Doris Fisher on February 20, 1924, in Weymouth. He was the ninth in a line of clergymen that stretched back on his father’s side of the family.

With his younger brother Derek, who died before him, he grew up in Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. He went to Mourne Grange Preparatory School, in Kilkeel, County Down, Northern Ireland, then Portora Royal School in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

In 1942 he went to Trinity College, Dublin, to study theology, but a year later left to join the Irish Guards. He trained at Pirbright Army base and Snowdonia for exercises before active service. But two weeks before D-Day he suffered two major heart attacks, confining him in a military hospital for 18 months.

After recovering he returned to Dublin and finished his degree in theology in 1948.

He was ordained as a priest in 1950 by his father in Kildare Cathedral.

In 1952 he joined the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department for five years, supporting units in Germany, as well as Cyprus.

After leaving the army he took the Church of Ireland position in Fethard-on-Sea in 1957 and stayed in that position until 1962.

In 1960 he married his wife, known as Pan, whom he had met several years earlier when he took her to lunch at Brown’s, London.

They were married in Chelsea Old Church, London, by the then Bishop of Dublin George Simms.

Their first son, Rupert, was born in 1961, followed by David in 1963 and Humfrey in 1967.

From 1962 Mr Fisher rejoined the army as a chaplain, serving in Munster province, Ireland, Berlin and Cyprus.

After leaving again in 1970, he moved to Oxfordshire and took a position of priest-in-charge of North Stoke with Mangewell and Ipsden. He then took the position of vicar until his retirement in 1992. During his time in North Stoke, he lived in what is now the Old Vicarage, and made many friends in the area.

Rev Adrian Fisher died on April 15 of cardiac failure.

A funeral was held on April 26 at St Mary’s the Virgin Church, Henley, attended by about 150 people, including members of the Irish Guards and the Royal British Legion.

He is survived by his wife, his three sons and grandchildren Molly, Cosmo, Tom and Emelia.

This week’s obituaries:

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