Friday, 14 January 2011
By NICK SHARPE, Chief Reporter, and PAUL THORNTON
A PRIEST who quit his parish after becoming "close" to a mum was last night described as a "charmer".Father John Irons, 47, is said to have become friendly with Alice Graham as he gave her marriage advice during her break-up from police officer husband Bob.
Fr Irons - a former Radio Clyde DJ - stunned his flock by mysteriously quitting St Cuthbert's in Hamilton on Sunday.
But we can reveal the reason behind his departure is his relationship with now-divorced mother-of-two Mrs Graham.
It's said Fr Irons "comforted" Mrs Graham, 48, while he was a priest in Blackwood, Lanarkshire, where she previously lived with her family.
It's thought he was giving marriage counselling to Mrs Graham and her husband Bob, also 48. Fr Irons' friendship with Mrs Graham sparked talk among parishioners, who reported seeing the priest coming and going from her home.
A source said last night: "Fr Irons is a charmer and no mistake.
"He's always been a social animal, and it's no surprise that these rumours have led to him stepping down.
"Unfairly, everyone in the St Cuthbert's parish seems to blame Alice Graham for leading him astray.
"That's way wide of the mark, though."
The priest - who rubbed shoulders with stars like Sugababe Jade Ewen while he was a DJ - claims he has stepped down because he wasn't giving his parish his "full commitment".
Yesterday the Catholic Church said Fr Irons was removed from the Lanarkshire parish at his own request.
It's now thought the priest has started a new job as a car salesman.
A church spokesman said: "Following discussion with Bishop Joseph Devine, Father Irons has decided to step down from parish ministry while he considers his future."
Fr Irons has been a priest for 23 years, also serving at St Joseph's, Blantyre, St Mary's, in Larkhall and Our lady in St John's, Blackwood. The source told how he left Blackwood after his friendship with then-married Mrs Graham became common knowledge.
They added: "Alice Graham and her husband Bob are said to have gone to Fr John because their marriage was on the rocks.
"Obviously in that situation people talk about their feelings and it can be quite difficult.
"It would have been a raw and emotional time for everyone - Fr Irons included.
"Sometime during that counselling period it seems that some kind of relationship has started between the priest and Alice Graham.
"Obviously in a small town like Blackwood the rumour mill was soon in overdrive.
"It was as if folk in Blackwood were asking too many questions about what was going on between the two of them.
"Eventually the decision was made that he should move a few miles away."
Mrs Graham moved to Hamilton three years ago.
Church ... St Cuthbert's
The couple had been married for 24 years and have two children, Cara, 22, and 20-year-old Ryan.
Mrs Graham's ex Bob, a Strathclyde Police superintendent, said yesterday he had "nothing to say" about his former wife's relationship with the priest.
Mr Graham, who now lives in Glasgow, said only: "This doesn't affect me. We've separated - divorced, actually. I'm the victim here, and I have dignity. I've got nothing to say about this.
"I've got more self-respect than that, and I don't need to make comment. We're divorced. I have my own life now.
"She's got her life, and that's the bottom line."
Mr Graham also refused to comment on whether Fr Irons contributed to the break-up of his marriage. Fr Irons is said to have "stunned his congregation" by quitting the St Cuthbert's post on Sunday.
He broke the shock news to parishioners during Mass at his church.
He told baffled friends that he was not giving the parish his "full commitment" and had decided to step down.
It is unclear if he has left the priesthood, which involves a lengthy legal process and takes some years to complete.
The churchman is best known as the presenter of a Radio Clyde music show, and for raising money for charity through his roadshow.
He succeeded Father John Taylor as priest of St Cuthbert's last year.
Following his announcement on Sunday, one parishioner said: "He told everyone at the early Mass on Sunday and again at the later Mass that night.
"Everyone is devastated and upset by his departure.
"But no one really knows why he has gone. It is a bit of a mystery.
"We are supposed to be getting a new priest on Friday but we will have to wait and see."
Another parishioner added: "When he came to St Cuthbert's he was a breath of fresh air. People loved his sermons.
"He was a good preacher, very approachable and it's a shame he has left. People are very shocked."
Mrs Graham and Fr Irons were unavailable for comment last night.
Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/3351155/DJ-priest-quits-over-close-friendship-with-the-divorcee.html#ixzz1AyC3Adqm