Shocked Limerick man thought letter about OBE was a parking fine

Donal O’Regan

Reporter:

Donal O’Regan

Shocked Limerick man thought letter about OBE was a parking fine
JOHN Gilhooly may have been awarded an OBE – officer of the most excellent order of the British Empire – but you won’t find a prouder Limerick man.

JOHN Gilhooly may have been awarded an OBE – officer of the most excellent order of the British Empire – but you won’t find a prouder Limerick man.

He was named an OBE by Queen Elizabeth in her June 2013 birthday honours list for his outstanding services to music.

The Lisnagry man is director of London’s world famous Wigmore Hall described as “the greatest chamber music venue in the world”.

John said he had no inkling that the prestigious honour was in the offing.

“I thought the letter was a parking fine or something! It came in a very official letter saying at Her Majesty’s Service.

“I thought I might have to do jury service and I put it to one side. I didn’t open it for a day or two so it was a bit of a shock.

“It came to my home. I am very good with my work correspondence but not as good with my home correspondence,” smiled John.

He had to mention it to the Irish Government and even when it was all confirmed he says he still could not believe it.

“In the letter the Prime Minister says he has already discussed the OBE with the Queen and he says she has informally approved it and with your permission could they ask the Queen to formally approve it.

“Of course I said yes,” John told the Leader.

Son of the late Owen, John said he is particularly looking forward to bringing his mum, Helen, to the investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace. Siblings Noreen and Owen will also be there to watch the Queen pin the medal on John’s chest.

“She pins it over your heart. The idea is you wear your honour over your heart,” said John, who is credited with the artistic, financial and administrative transformation of Wigmore Hall over the past 12 years, bringing it to an all time high in terms of ticket sales and membership, and also for expanding the hall’s artistic programme in both traditional and new directions.

John became chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society in July 2010, and is currently overseeing major celebrations for the bicentenary of the RPS, on both sides of the Atlantic, throughout 2013. He was conferred with the prestigious award of Honorary Membership of the Royal College of Music by Prince Charles last year.

While his working life is in London, home is still Limerick and he is a regular visitor.

John has never missed singing at midnight Christmas Mass in Ahane for over 20 years. His most recent visit was during the fine spell of weather.

“To see Limerick and Castleconnell in the sunshine was wonderful. It really is a beautiful place,” said John, who also visited University of Limerick.

“It was heartening to see the facilities for music on the campus of UL. We should be really, really proud of the Irish Chamber Orchestra.

“I hadn’t been there for 10 years. It made my week to see how well things are going,” said John, who added that he had already received congratulatory letters from Limerick people.