Proud Limerickman John Gilhooly brings second OBE home to Lisnagry

John Gilhooly with his brother Owen and mother Helen and sister Noreen, who are wearing Castleconnell milliner Aisling Mahers designs, at Johns OBE investiture ceremony in Buckingham Palace
JOHN Gilhooly brought a second OBE home to Lisnagry and took a piece of Castleconnell to Buckingham Palace last week.

JOHN Gilhooly brought a second OBE home to Lisnagry and took a piece of Castleconnell to Buckingham Palace last week.

Mr Gilhooly, director of Wigmore Hall and chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, received the OBE for services to music. Wigmore Hall has been described by The Times as “the greatest chamber-music venue in the world” and Mr Gilhooly is credited with the transformation of the hall’s artistic, financial and administrative affairs over the past 12 years.

Amazingly it is the second OBE for the parish of Castleconnell and the Gilhoolys live on the land of the first recipient - John Fitzgibbon, The Second Earl of Clare.

“It is quite ironic as we live on their estate – the old Mountshannon estate. I went to Lisnagry National School, which is built on the Mountshannon estate so in a way it is bringing an OBE home over 150 years later. It is a nice link,” said Mr Gilhooly.

His family also brought pieces from Castleconnell to the investiture ceremony in the form of his mother Helen and sister Noreen’s headwear.

“We brought a bit of Castleconnell with us,” smiled Mr Gilhooly, who spoke to the Limerick Leader from Basel in Switzerland the morning after the prestigious ceremony.

“My mother wore a fascinator and my sister wore a hat by milliner Aisling Maher, who is based in The Hermitage. Castleconnell was very well represented at the palace and got a lot of attention – a lot of people came up to admire the ladies’ headwear,” said John, who is just 39. The family was completed by brother Owen.

Immediately after the ceremony where Queen Elizabeth pinned the OBE over his heart the family attended a Mass in Corpus Christi Church in Covent Garden. Mr Gilhooly’s father Owen passed away in 2008.

“It was for all deceased members on both side of the family, primarily for my father and grandmother and people who couldn’t be there. So in a way we remembered them and were able to include them in the day,” said Mr Gilhooly.

On the morning he was absolutely fine but the nerves did kick in once the conversation with the Queen ended.

“Your name is called and you are presented. The Queen is up on the dais, you stand three steps in front of her, you bow, you walk to her and she comes to you.

“It was beautiful. She is very engaging and the convention is that I don’t repeat the conversation I had with her. All I will say is she acknowledged she had a wonderful time in Ireland.

“I was fine until the conversation ended because you have to reverse back – you cannot give your back to the Queen.

“I found the reversing back a little bit difficult, reverse gear was a bit difficult, that’s the moment my nerves hit,” laughed John.

While receiving such an honour at such a young age he is quick to deflect attention from himself and said it was particularly wonderful for his mother.

“She had never seen the palace from the inside. I’ve been there a few times but for my mother to see it and to be in the throne room / ballroom where the ceremony happens and just to be in the presence of the Queen ...”

Despite his working life being in London and he says he is “either in Wigmore Hall or in the air” he is a proud Limerickman and has been home twice in the last month. He joins an exclusive club as Terry Wogan is the other Limerickman to receive an OBE.