LURGAN businessman Jarlath McConville has been honoured with one of the highest accolades you can receive from the Vatican.
Mr McConville was presented with the Benemerenti Medal by the Bishop of Dromore, Dr John McAreavey, following a special service marking 150th anniversary of St Vincent de Paul in Lurgan.
Mr McConville, who owns PJ McConville’s shoe shop in North Street, was presented with the medal in recognition of his services to the community.
He is not the first in his family to receive this prestigious honour as it was presented to his late aunt Angela, a former music teacher at St Michael’s Senior High School.
Having joined St Vincent de Paul aged 16 in 1950, Mr McConville became secretary in 1956, a post he held until two years ago, though he continues to work for the charity, manning collection boxes outside St Peter’s Church after all Sunday Masses.
Over the years, with other members of the SVP conference, he visited needy patients at Lurgan Hospital, Waringfield Hospital, Manor Home and Hoop Hill Old People’s homes.
He is probably best known as owner of his shoe shop, the oldest of its kind in Northern Ireland and the oldest in Lurgan. It was started by his great grandfather Dan 133 years ago and Jarlath is the fifth generation proprietor.
Even at work he continues his charitable endeavours and has raised a substantial sum for Action Cancer.
He has won medals for singing, Irish dancing, playing the violin and playing Gaelic and soccer.
Charming and knowledgeable, he has enlightened many over the years through his contributions to TV and radio, and recalls talking about Sir Robert Matthew’s plans for the new city of Craigavon before it was even built.
He has served on 18 different organisations including North Street Traders, the Irish Council for the National Operatic and Dramatic Association of London, the local branch of the CEMA (a forerunner of the NI Arts Council) and the Lurgan Catholic Association, to name a few.
He helped form Lurgan Operatic Society in 1950 and was appointed secretary in 1956, a post he held for 30 years before becoming Vice-President. He played many principal parts and on a few occasions his leading lady was local professional actress Stella McCusker.
In a production of the Merry Widow, he won Best Male Voice against competition from across the UK and Ireland.
He was also offered a tour of America with a musical group but had to turn it down due to business commitments.
Mr McConville was on the Board of Governors of St Peter’s Primary School and the Department of Education.
He wrote a musical column for the Irish Sunday Press and was also one of the recipients of the Mayor’s Award from Craigavon Borough Council.
His talents featured in a book called ‘Touching a Chord’ which found its way to the White House after the author met with former President Bill Clinton’s wife Hilary.
He feels proud that all the organisations he was connected with were non-political and non-sectarian. “I feel very much at home with all sections of the community,” he said.
He had been asked to stand for election to Lurgan council but turned it down as he didn’t want to be involved in politics.