Wednesday, 2 April 2008

On 11 May 1984 Patricia Murphy (as we knew her then) brought her camera to work. It was one of those early summer days when it was warm enough to dally on the steps of the Radio Centre and enjoy the sun. Women Today must have been recently off-air, while the Day by Day team were either down in Madigan's (that culture still had a few years left to run) or were indoors getting the next day's programme together.

Trish could be very determined when occasion demanded and she corralled a goodly cross-section of the old department out of doors for these photographs. And just as well that she did - there aren't many other film records of FCA at the time. Mary McAleese, later to be President, was a young reporter. The redoubtable Eddie McSweeney was 75 and still in harness. He died a few years later, still working on Sunday Miscellany scripts from his hospital bed. Standing beside Eddie is Paddy O'Neill who did not long outlive him. Like Eddie, Paddy was a link to the old Radio Eireann days. He had been around since the nineteen-fifties - originally as an actor in the REP, then as producer of Din Joe's Take the Floor, and later as a sports commentator and as Michael Littleton's assistant.

There too is Donal Flanagan, like Mary McAleese a former academic, and soon to be Assistant Controller. And I was particularly pleased to find Padraic Dolan in the group. Padraic had a high old sense of mischief - I remember spending one of the more surreal all-out strikes (the Seamen's Union, to which the transmitter riggers belonged, once shut RTE down for a month) alongside him and Shane Ross and Ruth Buchanan in a haze of champagne in Madigan's, Padraic bringing daily supplies of Dublin Bay Prawns (he claimed to have been working on a Howth trawler to make some money).

Then there are the three people who meant something very special to me then - and down the years since: Trish herself; Kate (Kathleen O'Connor); and the late lamented Des Hickey, with whom I had worked on the arts magazine Appraisal. Kathleen, from the Ballinskelligs Gaeltacht in Count Kerry was Michael Littleton's admin assistant; previously she had worked with Sean MacReamoinn - and I think I regarded her, particularly after Michael's death, as the beating heart of FCA and someone who embodied all the old - and gentler - values of the radio service.

Trish was - still is - like champagne. Predictably we've stayed in touch on and off down the years and the fun and the conversation never flag. And there is so much to remember; Trish was with me in Limerick for that infamous Women Today public forum during which an over-wrought Nell McCafferty made remarks about a senior cleric in the city which caused us quite a flurry, headlines in the local papers and a grim morning editing her presence out of the programme to be broadcast in the afternoon. I still think of Trish pestering me for overdue paysheets, teasing me in good moments and grim, and of an extraordinary goodness which I treasured then and even more now.

More script to follow.....

Back:Padraic O'Neill, Maxwell Sweeney, Donal Flanagan
Front: Mary, Geraldine, Valerie Kane

Back: Colm Keane and Pat Leahy
Front: John Doyle (Sound Ops), Kathleen O'Connor, Freda McGough, Mary Curtin

Bernadette O' Sullivan, Ingrid Miley, Padraic Dolan,
Micheal Holmes and Betty Purcell

Jim Jennings and Paddy O'Gorman