Derry singer's path from suffering homophobic bullying to penning hit song

A talented Derry singer-songwriter has spoken of the harrowing campaign of homophobic bullying and threats that resulted in him penning a song which has been watched over 200,000 times since a demo was shared.

Friday, 14th October 2016, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 2:34 pm
Derry musician Patrick McDonagh.
Derry musician Patrick McDonagh.

Patrick McDonagh from the Buncrana Road area of the city said many of those listening to ‘No Control’ were totally unaware of the sickening taunts and vile threats which drove the 20-year-old to the brink of suicide.

Patrick is currently carving out a musical career path and has already achieved a number of firsts since securing a place at a prestigious music institute in England last year.

Now, as he enters his second year, he said he wants to speak about what happened to him to let other people who are being victimised because of their sexuality that they are not alone and that they can get through it.

Derry musician Patrick McDonagh.

Speaking to the Journal, Patrick, who plans to release ‘No Control’ over the coming months, said: “There is a pretty deep message that I have never really spoken about. Some things aren’t as easily said. A lot of people think ‘No Control’ is a love song and I want to set the record straight.”

Patrick’s ordeal started when he began a new course of study in Derry some years ago.

“It was going really, really well the first couple of months and it got to the point where we were starting to perform.

“I wrote a song and performed it live and I started getting homophobic messages which were anonymous and the name would come up ‘withheld’.

Derry musician Patrick McDonagh.

“I wasn’t out at the time. At the time I thought that was bad, but it got a lot worse.”

Patrick said that homophobic abuse is so rife it is something may people grow to accept over their lives, but following the initial messages, the situation escalated over the following weeks, forcing him to skip classes.

He said to this day he still does not know for certain the identity of his tormentor or tormentors but knows it was someone connected to the course he was doing as they knew when he was absent and messaged him when he left class and about assignments.

Nothing. however. seemed to deter the culprits, whom he said, began hacking into his social media, accounts, e-mails and even his Apple ID.

He said they also managed to access and interrupt phone calls and send messages to people.

“I have had to change my phone number so many times,” he claimed. “I didn’t go to the police because I wasn’t out and didn’t feel comfortable coming out. At the time I had really, really bad anxiety and that totally escalated. I wasn’t eating, sleeping.”

Patrick said he eventually did go to the police but said he wasn’t comfortable going on the record.

He said it was scary to think people knew how to access and interrupt someone’s life and the bullying escalated again when he received picture messages of himself which made it clear they knew his location and had been stalking him as they were sending him pictures as he was walking.

“It was sick. They were sending threats and that became a normality. They were graphic, homophobic and all were withheld.

“This is such a crazy situation, I didn’t think anybody would believe me.”

Patrick confided in a few close friends who persuaded him to go to the educational authorities, but Patrick said the matter never got fully resolved and the bullying really took its toll.

“The song started as a suicide letter,” he said. “It just got to that point. I had literally ‘no control’ in my life at all. I would just go into a daze. For me the only thing I could control at that time was whether I could live or die.”

After being pulled back from the brink of a suicide attempt by an unknown stranger, Patrick said the bullying and vie threats continued and it didn’t stop after he moved away.

He said that initially writing the song didn’t help and for a long time he couldn’t perform it himself as he thought people would know what it was about. Over recent months, the messages have declined in frequency, but Patrick believes that in general homophobia is “alive and well.”

“It is great how far we have come but I think a lot of it is global media papering over the cracks. Paper tears and paper fades. I think it’s tolerated a lot of the time and I don’t think most schools really deal with it.

“ A lot of the time people don’t know what they are saying. For every 10 people who ever called me gay in school I’m probably friends with nine of them now. They grew up and realised they were behaving like sheep. They were trying to fit in.”

But Patrick is a survivor, and has gone on despite his ordeal to achieve great things in his chosen career path. He has a string of gigs lined up, and has headlined at a music festival in Stoke recently.

And ‘No Control’, which was recently included in a new anthology, has taken on a life of its own.

“I have been getting lots of lovely messages,” he said. “It is incredible to know how many people are connecting to the song in so many ways and for different reasons- a song is different for everyone; everyone interprets everything so very differently.”

He said he hopes by sharing his story it will help others.

“I have never felt ready or safe enough to tell my story,” he said. “I might as well because I have done nothing wrong and I have nothing to hide.

“When I was going through this you just felt so alone with no-one speak to and no-one around you can really understand being a victim of homophobia unless they are gay themselves. If it helps one person, if it lets them know they that they are not the only one, it is worth it.”