On the Irish Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, who helped Jewish people to safety in Rome... For Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ Radio 1, listen to Courage in the Alleys by Joseph O'Connor above.

On Christmas Eve, in Rome, I went for a walk – through the shadowed, cobbled, backstreets that lead from the old working-class quarter of Trastevere, by the banks of the Tiber, to the Vatican.

In the houses, families were gathering. Radios played Puccini. The darkness of the alleys seemed sanctified by hope. I was thinking of Hugh O'Flaherty.

I can’t remember the first time I heard his story, but I’ve an idea it was in Listowel, County Kerry. Late one night, perhaps in John B Keane’s bar, someone told me about Hugh O Flaherty’s courage in Rome during World War Two, how he and a small band of fellow activists saved thousands from the Nazis.

Home in London, the more I researched him, the more I was amazed. Five years ago, when I was wondering what to write a novel about, Hugh came knocking on my windows...

Listen to more from Sunday Miscellany here.