Well-known singer and Drum native Brendan Shine will feature on tonight’s “Would You Believe” on RTÉ1 at 10.25pm. The programme, A Cross in Alabama, follows Brendan as he discovers the shocking truth about the murder of his great-uncle, Fr. James Coyle, in Alabama in 1921.
Fr. James E Coyle was born in Drum in March 1873 to parents Owen Coyle and Margaret Durney. His father was the principal of Drumpark National School. After studying in Limerick, he was ordained in Rome in May 1896 and died in Alabama in August 1921.
From the outset, Brendan knows from family lore that his great-uncle was killed by a member of the Ku Klux Klan. During the course of making this programme he uncovers a story which caused a major scandal in the US at that time. One expert described the trial as ‘the OJ of the early 20th century’. The trial of Methodist Minister, Rev. Edwin Stephenson, who confessed to the police immediately after the killing, became a show of force by the Ku Klux Klan. How did a court acquit Stephenson, who turned himself into the police, and allow him to walk out of the courtroom a free man, and a local hero? Brendan also discovers that a future Supreme Court Judge played a pivotal role in the trial.
Brendan will discover that Fr. Coyle is considered a martyr for his faith among Catholics in Birmingham, and that there are calls to have him beatified, and eventually to have him canonised a saint.
This programme combines interviews, archive footage, photographic material, and re-enactments of key moments. Brendan’s journey to discover the story will be the vehicle through which the audience will become fully engaged. Filming took place in Ireland and in the US.
A Cross in Alabama is produced and directed by Pat Shine. Pat is Brendan’s cousin and hails originally from Waterford. He now resides in Bray, Co. Wicklow.
- Drum.ie – About Fr. James Coyle
- RTÉ – Would You Believe
- Irish Independent – Singer throws light on Ku Klux Klan murder
- The Birmingham News – Father Coyle relatives visit Birmingham to film documentary on murdered priest for Irish television