Pat Hanna has spent the majority of his life on the road and on the stage. Now though he is touring with his daughter, well known Christian Singer / Songwriter Philippa Hanna.
I wanted to take the opportunity to get to know a little bit more about him, so I caught up with him before going on stage in St Austell last month. I got more than I bargained for with a family history and a powerful testimony...
It's lovely, this is our fifth gig together, although we did do lots of things when she was a little girl. She'd come and play on MY stage, you know? It's lovely to see her doing so well in the Christian world, which she really is top at it. How would you explain it? It's like the old clan when I was 15 and going along with my brothers and sisters on the stage. It's like that now, here I am touring in the night time of my life, if you know what I mean? She's just a really lovely person to be with, she's a lovely girl. I see her differently than other people being her Dad, you know? People go over the moon saying she's got some beautiful songs, she's a great singer, and I just say yeah, well she's just my Philippa! You can understand that can't you?
No not a Romany background. My Mother and Father were professional people. My Dad's family were born in Belfast, and my Dad's family all had taxi cabs, and this is going back into the 20's and 30's and my Mum's family all had pawn shops and were very wealthy, you know?
Because of the fact that my Mother was a Catholic and my Daddy was a protestant born in Ireland in the North of Ireland, they were very, very strict and they didn't want them to meet or marry, their families didn't agree. So they went away to the Republic of Ireland and formed a travelling show. My Daddy was a comedian and singer, my Mother was a dancer and a singer, they met in the Empire Theatre in a show and they put it together. We were born, each one of us, in different places in Ireland as the show went around, and that's how it came about.
So basically you have been performing and on the stage background since you were born?
Yes. I had it told to me that they carried me on the stage in a little play called East Lynne. Now only amateur dramatic people would know that but it was a normal kind of play to have at a show and I was on there. I was singing from about 2 or 3 on the stage with someone holding my hand and so was Philippa. I took her on with me when she was little, she was a little frightened of the lights, but apart from that she loved it.
Well we were brought up as Catholics and that was a different thing altogether, we were brought up to fear the Lord, instead of love Him basically. "Oh don't do that or God will be angry with you" or "May God strike you dead" all these sayings you know, which weren't very good for little people. I didn't understand an awful lot of it, but I did understand that we had to be seen to be on one side or the other for people to attend our shows. If they thought we were protestants in a Catholic area they wouldn't come! We were nearly always in the South of Ireland so it was nearly all 100% Catholic. I think Daddy changed to Mum's side to get married, you know what I mean? 1 religion only.
Then we were all brought up to go to Mass, but it didn't mean anything to me. I believed as a little child that a Holy God was there, but I didn't believe so much in all the paraphernalia that went with it because we were quite poor. So was half the population of Ireland and the clergy themselves had beautiful cars and beautiful houses, and they got money every Sunday. If somebody didn't turn up with a good donation to the collection box they would be after the farmers to see why they weren't at mass. It was really a big concern, but even as a young boy I understood that I didn't like this, so when I became independent I joined a show with an Irish band, and I don't think I ever went back to Church for all those years.
I couldn't understand it, she was so taken up with the church that she was basically, I thought she was going to forsake her singing career to join the church and I was against it at the beginning. I thought it was all kind of a, what do you call it, a sect. So a few would take her in and because she loved being with them I thought she had been brainwashed. But I gradually came around a bit. Sandra and I have a nephew who is a bishop in the Elim church, I went on an Alpha Course and I kind of liked it. I decided that this was good. All the people I met were loving and friendly and I was taken aback at how nice everybody was. So I thought I would just give it a shot, that's what I told the pastor when he said "do you give your life to Jesus?", "Well I'll give it a shot."
Since then it has been life-changing. I've begun to believe and love the Lord and I watch Philippa growing every day. She's growing in her faith and she's growing in her music. Her Mum and I were both baptised by my Nephew last year in the Gorbals in Glasgow and that was really lovely that was. We went up and he baptised us, and I think it was one of the cold times as well. We loved that, it was good. From then on I'm not as demonstrative as my wife would be, or Philippa, I'm just quiet about it if you can understand that. I don't wave my hand in the air for help but I do little prayers and keep thinking about the good things.
The only thing that I can relate to you is when I was told, for a start my Doctor rang me to come in and see him. I thought; "Now this is strange! When does a Doctor ever ring you to come and see him?" So I went and he said, "We’ve looked and your blood count is very, very high." I didn't understand what that meant, "But I'm going to have to send you for some tests." I said "Is It cancer?" he said "well it possibly could be a blood cancer." I went to the tests and all that and found out I had Leukaemia.
I wasn't going to drop dead tomorrow, it was a progressive chronic case that can't be cured. So I just took it off my shoulders, I didn't burst into tears, and nobody else did, and I just thought "well I'm still feeling pretty OK" apart from chronic tiredness and falling asleep half of the time. I went for my treatment and had my chemotherapy. One of the chemotherapy things, my body rejected it, I had a heart attack or whatever it was. My chest caved in and they were running around with injections and things like this. They said that they would try it again, but they didn't have to. When they checked my bloods, my bloods were pretty good, it had taken an effect without this special treatment that makes your hair fall out. So then the next thing I had my checks every two months, I had my chemotherapy, I went back in two months. "Very good!" I went back this March and my Doctor said "This is great, if it wasn't for the fact that it's incurable I'd say it was gone!" Now is that a miracle, or is it not?
He said "Your bloods are very, very good, almost back to normal, but it will come back later on." But this is totally normal to me now. So he doesn't want to see me for 6 months now instead of every 2 months which is a good sign isn't it?
Philippa said "We're all going to pray for you" and all my Christian friends prayed for me, the power of prayer is there, without fail!
Wonderful, I'm not going to say that I taught her everything she knows but I gave her the intro, I gave her the wherewithal to either like or dislike being in show business. She just loves it and she's growing by herself. Maybe I taught her a couple of little chords but she's so far ahead of me as far as chords are concerned. She's got a weird idea about chords that just fly past me. I couldn't be happier for her.I love being with her, but this is only a short-term thing, I'm going to do my own little thing as well coming around with my testimony. This is a little thing with Philippa that we'll never forget, we'll be able to look back at it!
After 10 years, yes. It's been 10 years since I've been out doing the clubs and things, or on the stage, or in pantomime or anything, but yeah. My idea is to come around with my wife Sandra, she's an ex-schoolteacher, her faith is wonderful and she's got some good little testimonies and good things to say. I can do the music and she can do some poems and I'll do some too, and we'll have a nice little thing to go around and do a testimony. That'll be in the New Year when the snow has gone!
Pat's album "Better Late Than Never" is available now.