Maire Brennan:  From Fame to Faith
by Maire Brennan
Editor's note:  The following excerpt is taken from Irish Singer Maire (pronounced Moya) Brennan's autobiography, The Other Side  of the  Rainbow.  The Grammy Award winner is lead singer for Clannad, the  world-renowned group  from  Ireland,  from which Maire's sister Enya received her start.  Maire has recorded with U2's Bono, Paul Young, Bruce Hornsby and others. Last year she released a solo project,  New Irish Hymns-entitled  In Christ Alone in the United States  (EMI Worship/Chordant)  in which she  collaborated with Margaret Becker and Iona's Joanne Hogg.  Maire's  autobiography frankly charts her upbringing in rural Donegal,  Ireland,  through hurtful and hedonistic  years and into a search that led her  to her rediscovery of faith and solid footing in her life and work.  Maire is a member of St. Mark's Family Worship Center (Assemblies of GOD) where A/G mission- ary Gary Davidson is pastor. -------
In the 30 years  of my time with Clannad  I have stood in  the wings of The  Late Late Show  on numerous occasions,  but I have never felt so sick with nerves as I  did that night.  With a tight  knot in my  stomach and perspiration on my palms, I listened to Pat Kenny's introduction and prayed  that I might be able to say the right  things:  "Now, ladies and  gentlemen, my next guest is no  stranger to the  Late Late Show. She is the girl from Donegal, the one we all know and love as the voice of Clannad.  But tonight she's  here to talk to us about her  autobiography and let  me tell you,  there are some  shocking  revelations.  Do we  actually know the real Maire Brennan?  Let's meet her."

I took my seat to the audience's welcoming applause,  taking a moment's comfort as I made out the silhouette of my husband, Tim, sitting on the front row.  As expected, Pat Kenny honed  in on the darker aspects of my story,  particularly the  abortion.  I  knew  that this  would  be  a terribly  shocking  revelation to some people, especially those who knew me, but I want to get  across my  message about GOD's  forgiveness and to share how my broken life has been healed through turning to Him. 

For the next few days I felt  like I wanted to hide.  I found  myself  on the front  pages of  Ireland's  newspapers.

Numerous  times I was stopped  while out shopping  when  a woman  would thank me for my honesty and tell me how  encouraged she  was by my  story. Stories  (from readers) continued  to flood  in, making me more  and more  grateful for  the  things GOD has  done in  my life and the  opportunity  I have, through my story, to help others. So easily we wrongly fear the judgement of these people who,  perhaps more than most, might reveal compassion and forgiveness.


I had been trying to ignore the  sickly feeling in  my stomach,  but now there was  no doubt about it.  I had to face the  fact  that I  could  be  pregnant.  Panic-tricken,  I had no idea  what to do.  What I  feared and focused  on most  was the  potential I had  to hurt  so many people.  What  kind of an example was I?  The eldest of the family, and here I was, only one year out of school and pregnant through a night of silliness at a festival.

All day and for the past few weeks I had  persuaded myself that  (an abortion)  was a necessary evil.  I had made a mistake and it was up to me to deal with it with minimum fuss.  But what I was about to do was...

I awoke,  back on the  ward with a pounding head and  a lurching  stomach. I was  terribly sick and longed for the  numbness for  sleep.  It was  dark and  quiet on the ward,  except for the  restless  stirring of other haunted dreams.  Eventually, I quietly cried myself to sleep.


I'd never smoked as a teenager.  I knew some of the girls  at school did it,  and later in my father's bar the air used to be thick with nicotine fumes,  but we'd grown up in a cigerette-free  household and admired our parent's stance against it. Then again,  life  on  tour  was  different.  We  were  musicians  and  that's  what musicians did.  It was in Germany that we  were also introduced to  cannabis. It seemed quite widely available, though I was shocked when I was first offered it. The first time I tried it, I hated it. But it was "cool," so I persevered.That's the worst thing about young people with drugs, drink and sex. It becomes the "thing to do."  It was all  part of "having a good time."  More and more we found ourselves surrounded by people who indulged and supplied us, and a joint every now and again helped us wind down after a show. 


The "Theme from Harry's Game" (by Clannad) was tauted around some of the major record companies and RCA (who later became part of the BMG group) rose to the challenge. 

The Harry's Game film was broadcast over the next  three nights and by  Wednesday the sales of the single had rocketed.

Bono tells a story that he nearly went off the road when he  heard it on his car radio.  He had to pull up and listen to it properly.  It was so unusual, and, of course, Bono recognized that the singing was in Gaelic. We were very flattered  when  U2  later  used  it to open  and  close  their show  and also in their concert video filmed at Red Rock.

Even with Clannad's success, my confidence had been gradually, and fatally, eroded.

Though I probably didn't  realize it at the time,  my self-esteem  had plummeted  and inside I was dreadfully lonely.  It was easy to drink and smoke a joint. It helped me forget all that and  meant I didn't have to  think too deeply about anything. I should have been excited and on top of the world with the way my career was going, or thinking  about starting a family of my own,  but no,  my future didn't get beyond the next couple of hours in a day.

People had gone crazy and our  music was  being played everywhere. When the night of the  British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards came around we were all in very high spirits.

I cringe  now to think  what I must  have looked  like  among  all the other  guests - the "beautiful people" - actors and actresses, models and general celebrities, all in their designer  gear and glitzy hairdos. Still, when Ronnie Scott made the  anouncement that  Clannad had  won the  award for the best soundtrack, I couldn't have cared less what I looked like.  The moment  (going on stage to accept the award)  was simply breathtaking.

Champagne flowed and we chatted and laughed our way through the rest of the evening to the point where we were getting  angry looks and  eventually a tell-off from  the table next to us  because they couldn't hear Charlton Heston do his speech.  Later we  joined the  lineup with  Heston, Jane Seymour,  Roger Daltry and other stars from the stage and  screen to be presented  to Princess Anne. The  next morning  the film company sent over bottles of  champagne which  we sipped  over breakfast in  the hotel room  as we giggled at our pictures in the newspaper.


Dope and cocaine were  always available  through the crowd I now  mixed with. Looking back, it's hard to understand why it did not become more of an addiction, For some reason it didn't get a grip on me the way it does with so many others.  Perhaps it had something to do with Mammy and  Daddy back home  on their knees praying, as they always had, for the protection of their children.


When I announced  on the  phone to  (my future husband)  Tim  that  the next time I was over in London I wanted to go to his church I think he was quite horrified.  He  tried to make an excuse for us not to go, but I was intrigued and determined.  This was a part of his life that was alien to me and I wanted to understand more of it.  I think  he thought it  might scare me or emphasize the  difference  between us,  and he tried to warn me what it might be like.

But in a  way he was right.  Even  his  warnings  had not  prepared  me for  what I  discovered the Sunday morning we walked into his church.  I was amazed at how casual it seemed.  Everyone was really friendly, laughing, chatting,  hugging each other, and the  vicar had a hard  time getting  everyone's attention to start the service.  When  the music  started I didn't  know what was going to happen.  There was a proper band playing and in  minutes people  were singing,  dancing  and throwing  their arms in the air. While the music was upbeat  they  danced and  clapped, then the worship leader  brought the  music down. There followed about 20 minutes of gentle songs that seemed to stir people's emotions even more.

I  look around. Some were crying, others just stood with their eyes closed and their hands held up towards the  ceiling.  Over to my  right I watched  one  of these  women  start to shake,  then  before my  eyes she collapsed backwards and lay on the floor.  It  made  me jump and I was amazed that the people around just left her lying there. There was also a strange muttering coming from some people, like a different language I didn't understand it.  It was very strange to me, quite mad in fact,
but I was interested in what was going on and what was being said, especially when the vicar gave his message. He spoke with power and passion about the love of GOD,  how  Jesus died to take on our burdens,  to wipe away our sins,  to be our personal Savior.  It was a new language for me, but I found myself quite gripped by what he was saying. 

I came out of  church with many questions.  I had  never heard people talk about Jesus in such a close and loving way, and as Christmas approached I was beginning  to look at the  nativity story that I knew so well in a new light.  I suppose I was seeking a deeper meaning  to my life and through the faith of my childhood and my meeting Tim I was beginning to find it.

During Christmas that year my family witnessed a smile on my face and lightness in my spirit that they had not seen for years.  There were so many clouds overshadow-ing me, but as I lived each day I found myself looking ahead with anticipation and hope, perhaps for the first time in my adult life.

I had alot to learn. I had no doubt in the existance of GOD, but what I had to grasp hold of was the fact that He heard my prayers and cared enough to pull me through.  I knew that handing  myself over to His mercy was  my  only  hope.  When  you  get  that  desperate  the  rules  and  trappings  of  any   kind  of  religion dissappears. There was no dramatic experience  or great  spiritual  awaking  but I was beginning  to understand that the GOD Who had watched over me since my birth was carrying me now.

Somewhere in the middle of all this was Clannad.  Our success was beyond anything we could have hoped for. But it wasn't necessarily bringing happiness.


The love (Tim and I shared) was special and the more we explored our faith together, the more we wanted our relationship to develope  on solid ground.  This is where  we both  recognized  that we were  living a lie. We wanted to live as Christians,  but there was the issue of  our sexual relationship.  We  knew it didn't set right with the spiritual walk we wanted to persue.  Though our backgrounds were different,  we were both raised to respect the sanctity of sex within marriage.  It was something we had both  rejected in the heat of our passion, but now it seemed to have become an issue. We turned to the Bible to seek justification for our behavior, but it didn't come.  GOD's Word was clear.  We knew we couldn't go on the way we were.  tt was as if we were  living two  separate lives.  We  were  a couple,  now going to  church  regularly and seeking (GOD's)  blessing  on our lives.   But  we were  also caught up  in our sexuality.  We  decided to be celibate.

At our first Easter together, Tim had offered to buy  me an Easter egg. I'd asked if he would get me a Bible instead.  He had been thrilled and inside wrote some words I have  always cherished: "To dear Maire  never forget how  much  GOD loves  you.  May  He  always give  you strength  and encouragement  and may you always be
able to show His love in your life."

My Bible had become a treasured companion, along with my  grandmother's prayer book.  I had taken it on tour with me, quietly and shyly seeking  my way on my  bunk in the bus  while the others played cards and watched videos.  All through the tour I made sure I went to church regularly.  The others never took much notice. Sunday morning was usually the time to catch on sleep and they rarely missed me. One of my visits took me to a large cathedral church in Christchurch.  The  worship was wonderful  and it was a  great service but it is neither the music nor the teaching that lingers in my memory.  Something happened that day; I came out of the cathedral feeling more alive than ever. "Tim, don't laugh at me," I said, "but I think GOD has spoken to me."  I went on to tell  him what was going on in my head.  It was  hard to explain.  There  had been  no audible  voice and it  wasn't even anything the preacher said, but somehow I felt  GOD was  telling me that I  would be used to help break through some of the barriers of prejudice in the Northern Ireland situation.

One of the most amazing things about life is that you never know what's around the corner.  In many ways my life was complete, happy and fulfilled.  I had a wonderful family (having married Tim), I had my career with Clannad  and I  was  enjoying church life  at St. Mark's. One  day my  dear friend,  Ann Trainor, who leads one of the worship  teams at the church,  invited me to sing a Gaelic Psalm  for the morning service. Gradually I found myself becoming a regular member of the worship team. When Ann discovered that Tim played the cello when he was younger, she eventually coaxed him into the team as well. 

Coming  from Ireland,  and seeing  the misery  caused  by  such  factions, I am ashamed that such obvious bigotry still exist among those  who profess to  love and
serve the Lord.  Is  there any  wonder that the outside world looks at the church with a certain disdain?  The impression so often is of a  body of people who wallow in self-reflection and are bound by guilt and rules, yet, the reality of Christianity is that Jesus Christ, the man from Nazareth, blew away the rules and regulations and replaced them with love - a love that does not condemn and judge, but breaks down barriers and unites people. 

Thankfully  this is the heart of some  people I have met around the world.  Toward the end of 1999 I found myself  performing at a  Presbyterian  church in  the loyalists  stronghold  of  East  Belfast.I  had  to double check that the pastor  knew what he had set up.  There I was, with  my band,  our  traditional  Irish instruments and Gaelic songs in a place that traditionally has had no tolerance for the things of Irish culture.  And yet that night the  church was  alive and  electric with  joy as I performed  in concert.It is in areas such  as this where the seeds of unity are beginning to flourish.  As the politicians struggle to bring peace to Ireland, the people of GOD - from all backgrounds, denominations, classes and walks of life  are seeing their prayers answered, and I cannot help but remember the conviction I had all those years ago in  Christchurch.  Once again, He is working out His perfect time in my life and  I am honored  and privileged  beyond  words to be able to play a small part in uniting GOD's people in my music
Singer Maire Brennan, of popular Irish music group Clannad, speaking about her own past, and her experience of having an abortion, said that she "would like to help girls
who have gone through what she went through if they wanted to talk about it and to tell them that GOD can forgive."  She was speaking at the launch in Ireland of the Power to Change Campaign.  From  The Other Side of the Rainbow (London:  Hodder and Stoughton, 2000)  Reprinted with permission.
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"Blessed be the GOD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Father of mercies and the GOD of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our afflictions so
that we may be able to comfort those, who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of GOD"  - 
II Corinthians 1:3-4