Michael McLoughlin pictured with Martin Bashir
Martin Bashir, who interviewed Princess Diana and Michael Jackson, came to Thurles to speak to Michael McLoughlin about the Pope's visit.
Thurles man Michael McLoughlin is up there with the best of them following a visit and interview from the man who exclusively interviewed the late Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.
BBC journalist Martin Bashir arrived at Cabra Road, Thurles to interview Michael for a news bulletin in relation to Pope Francis' visit to Ireland in August for the World Meeting of Families.
The reason? Well, the then 22 year old Michael had the honour of singing for Pope John Paul II at Galway Racecourse way back in 1979 and through a Thurles connection with one of the BBC producers, Michael's name was brought up.
The result was that Martin Bashir visited with a camera man and a producer, setting up in Michael and Mary McLoughlin's home and filmed for the bulletin which focused on the very different Ireland Pope Francis will visit compared to the one Pope John Paul II visited in 1979.
“He was an absolute gentlemen, a real down-to-earth kind of a man who chatted away freely for a long time. We spoke quite a lot about music because he had played in a band many years ago, so we had loads to chat about,” said Michael who is regarded as one of the finest performers on the local music scene.
A regular on stage with Thurles Musical Society where he has taken the lead in some of the biggest shows incouding the likes of Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar and Ragtime to mention just a few, Michael performed live to some 300,000 people in Galway Racecourse - a far bigger crowd than U2 or Michael Buble or Bruce Springsteen would ever have played to.
But, how did it all come about back in '79?
“I had been a founding member of Thurles Folk Group which was run by Sr Rita, and then I moved to work in Dublin in and, I joined the Rathmines Folk Group, which was one of the biggest in the country at the time. That group had actually been formed by a Thurles man, the late Fr Michael Walsh of Iona Avenue. Most of the rehearsals for the Papal events were held in Dublin and it was easier for me to attend them than other members of Thurles Folk Group - Siobhan Leahy from Thurles was also involved at the time and because of the desire to have a geographical spread of performers for the different events, I was chosen to sing in Galway Racecourse. They didn't want it to be all Dublin performers even though folk groups would have been very strong there at the time,” Michael said.
Michael McLoughlin was interviewed about his experience of singing for Pope John Paul II ahead of Pope Francis' visit in August.
“I am the Bread of Life” was the hymn performed at the Eucharist by Michael and Anna Caleb who went on to have a great career as a soprano afterwards and the Thurles man was thrilled to have received a photograph of him singing from the BBC who managed to pull a still off the video footage for him.
“I didn't have a photograph of it, so I was delighted to get it. I have it framed now along with the pass I received to get in to the event in Galway Racecourse,” Michael told The Tipperary Star.
So, almost 40 years on, Michael's performance for Pope John Paul II is still making the news.