By Sean Ryan - 21 September, 2015
Veteran comedian Jimmy Cricket has been awarded the Church’s highest honour by Pope Francis.
The Co Tyrone-born comic has tweeted that the Pope has made him a papal knight for services to charity.
The 69-year-old said he was “thrilled” to receive the honour that he will officially receive at a later date.
Born in Cookstown in Co Tyrone, the comedian, whose real name is James Joseph Mulgrew, became a household name in the 1970s.
The former Butlin’s red coat entertainer told BBC Radio Ulster the honour had come “right out of the blue”.
The father-of-four only became aware of the award when his parish priest arrived at his home to deliver what he thought was a 70th birthday card.
“The parish priest arrived and took out this certificate – it was a papal knighthood and it was in Latin,” Mr Cricket said.
“I thought: ‘He’s got the wrong fella here, is he sure it’s not the neighbour?’”
He said he was “humbled and honoured” by the recognition.
“I do what I love. If I can raise money by entertaining people, sure it’s not hard work. To get an honour for doing something that you love is quite a blessing.”
The news holds extra significance for devout Catholic Mr Cricket as his son, Frankie Mulgrew, was ordained as a priest in 2012.
Born in 1945, he now lives in Rochdale, England. He left school at 16 and has lived in Greater Manchester since the 1970s, building his career in clubs and on stage and screen.
He worked his way up by performing in holiday camps before Central Television gave him his own TV show, ‘And There’s More’, which is Jimmy’s popular catchphrase.
“Before I went on stage I did as little as possible, I was a total under-achiever,” he said.
“I worked in a box-making factory on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, and then I was a board-marker in a bookies. In showbiz one of the nicest things I ever did was a show on Radio 2 in the 90s called Jimmy’s Cricket Team.”
“We had some great people working on it, like the guy who wrote the Morecambe and Wise Christmas show. It gets repeated every now and again and people still email me and tell me how much they enjoy it. It’s a lovely legacy.”
Papal Knighthoods or Pontifical Knighthoods are awarded in the name of the Pope by his authority as head of the Catholic Church and as the head of state of the Holy See.
The last Irish recipient of such a papal honour was charity worker Eamonn Delaney who received a papal knighthood in October 2014 from Pope Francis for his selfless commitments to the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS-GB).
Mr Delaney who lives in Guildford in England received the honour for his 12 years of service as Chairman of the Board of Directors of AOS-GB, where he caters for the spiritual and temporal needs of many seafarers.
The honour, known as the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St Gregory the Great, is one of the five Orders of Knighthood of the Holy See and is the highest papal honour a Catholic layman can be presented with.
It is the same honour which Mr Cricket received.