Knock rock.

From Knock to live-radio jock

Gerard went back to Knock recently and an innocent Tweet about Knock Rock landed him on the Joe Duffy Show. In his own brilliant style, he tells us about it in this week's WordSmith column...

I was busy painting my family homestead when my aunt called, “We’re going to Knock tomorrow, do you want to come for the spin?” she asked.

I’d been to Knock once before, that was pre-pandemic; and a disagreement in the confessional box left me with ill-feeling for the Mayo shrine (that’s a column that would raise eyebrows). Wanting to re-evaluate the place, I made a mental note to postpone what I had to do the following day. “Yes, I’d like that.”

The next morning, off I went with an open mind and a reverential respect for those who find solace in such places. Little did I know that my day in Knock would put me live on the national airwaves.

Now, I have been on a few regional radio shows, which I enjoyed. That said, I’m not a consumer of radio, and would have no compulsion to phone a national radio show to proffer opinion. How did I get from a day trip to Knock to a live radio-jock?

Here goes. We arrived in Knock and I parted with my company to take the place in by myself; far away from the confessional boxes. The day was warm and I found myself transported back to my youth. The combination of sun and milling crowds along a sea-less promenade of trinket shops reminded me of cherished day-trips to Blackpool in the north of England; all that was missing was the sounds of ocean swell and the trill of hungry seagulls.

My mind was in a place of fun and frolics, but instead of kiss-me-quick-hats, tacky merchandise, and reams of Blackpool rock, there were shops full of religious iconography – I felt like I was in a fun-filled theme park – for Catholics.

And, perhaps I was. I enjoyed looking around the shops, discovering plaster casts of saints I wasn't familiar with. Then one stall stopped me in my tracks and put me right back in Blackpool: Rock. There is rock in Knock: Knock-rock!

I couldn’t help but smile and think that rock in a religious place of pilgrimage errs on the side of sacrilege. I took a picture of the Knock rock and posted it on X, formally known as Twitter; then joined my family for mass in the magnificent basilica.

The following morning I was in an estate agents office perusing their letter of engagement, when my phone pinged. I looked at the message: ‘Joe Duffy from RTE wants to speak with you.’ Instinctively I asked, “Who’s Joe Duffy?” I was told of him and his radio infamy; and believing he wanted to talk with me about something a Daily Mail journalist had previously approached me about, I put it to the back of my mind and decided to call the number after lunch time.

With lunch over, I duly dialled. A man called Dave was pleased to hear from me, “Hello Gerard, we saw you were in Knock yesterday; can you tell us what brought you there?” he asked. Taken off guard, I began talking. Only after I stopped babbling did I ask, “How’d you know I was in Knock?” He’d seen my Knock-rock post. Dave continued, “Joe’s on air now, can I put you on?” I mumbled something about being in a public place, but that didn’t bother Dave, “You’ll be great!”

And then, there I was: live on Liveline. I heard the infamous Joe ask a man, “Would I be right in saying you’re Ireland’s biggest manufacturer of rock?” The man replied, “You would be right, Joe.” The penny dropped with me, I realised I’d been called upon to create radio discord between rock man and I.

Joe continued, “I have Gerard here, he contacted us…” I immediately cut him off, “No I didn’t, you contacted me!” I don’t think Joe liked that.

I told Joe, “I’m not here to knock Knock or the rock in Knock!” and thus I began a rambling soliloquy on the beautiful mosaic that hangs in the Basilica, by artist P.J. Lynch, whose paintings hang in Cavan and Virginia libraries, respectively.

A few days later I got a card from the radio jock himself, thanking me for my contribution – even though I’m quite sure my cordial-contribution was not the discordant-content Mr Duffy was hoping for.


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