A child star of one of RTÉ’s earliest and most popular TV shows has been traced after rare footage was found after half a century.
The hunt is on now for the four other children who featured in an episode of The School Around the Corner which was recorded in Cork in 1962.
The recently discovered tape is amongst the oldest archive TV footage RTÉ has, and is the only complete episode from the early days of that programme.
Stephen Butt, from Cork, who was a pupil of Blackpool NS in 1962, was about 10 when he was among five schoolchildren selected to appear on the show.
He was traced yesterday after an appeal went out on the John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio One.
“I was nine or 10 at the time but I remember it as if it was yesterday,” said Stephen, now 61.
“It was recorded in the gym at Collins Barracks. We were picked up by car and brought up to the barracks. That was a big thing at the time. I remember it vividly — it has never left me.”
The show, presented by Paddy Crosbie, was the number one show on the fledgling TV station from its first broadcast in 1962 until its last screening in 1966. It was revived in the 1990s. Born out of a radio series, the show travelled around the country interviewing schoolchildren.
The team rolled in to Cork in late 1962 and picked five kids from various city schools to appear on the show.
RTÉ archivist Liam Wylie said because the tape used in the early days of TV was so expensive, the footage was rarely kept or archived. Often times, the tape was simply re-used, he said. However, in a remarkable stroke of luck, the Cork episode was also recorded on 35mm film.
That film was found recently in cans in UTV, where it is believed it lay untouched for 50 years. It is now back in RTÉ archives where it is being preserved.
“It is very unusual for TV to turn up shows that are 50 years old,” said Mr Wylie.
“It is just so fantastic to find such a show, especially in the 50th year of Irish TV.
“We just have the one programme. It is the only footage we have of that entire series. It is one of the earliest first full complete programmes that we have.”
The Cork show was an episode of the second series of Crosbie’s The School Around the Corner.
It was recorded in early Dec 1962 and broadcast on the evening of Dec 23, 1962 — after the US drama, National Velvet, and before The Flintstones.
Stephen, who grew up in Blackpool, said he remembers talking to Crosbie about playing cards, about thinning potatoes and beet on a local farm, about swimming in a pond on the Commons Rd, and playing at Murphy’s Rock. He recited a poem called ‘The Snail’ while on the show.
He his family didn’t own a TV but he remembers “being brought in to North Main St by my mother the night it was screened to watch it through the window of a TV shop. But we didn’t hear the sound. I wasn’t 2ft high. My mother was delighted. It was a very big deal to be on TV.”
A tiler by trade, he married Marie in 1974. They live in Frankfield, Cork, and have two daughters, Gillian and Alison, and two grandsons, Liam, aged four and Osian, aged two.
Mr Butt said it would be great if the footage could be restored so he could show it to his children.
Mr Wylie said it would be great if they could also trace the other children.
Archivists are restoring and enhancing the film, in the hope that it may be screened on TV. However, there are plans to load it up to the archives section of the RTÉ website.
Meanwhile, broadcaster Ray D’Arcy is working with Tyrone Productions on a modern version of The School Around the Corner, previously presented by the late Gerry Ryan, due for broadcast this Christmas.
* The footage will feature on a special Nationwide broadcast on Dec 17.
Where are they now?
The children were selected from various national schools in Cork City to appear on RTÉ’s The School Around the Corner show, presented by Paddy Crosbie, which was recorded in Collins Barracks, Cork, in early Dec 1962, and broadcast on Dec 23, 1962.
You can also get details from www.rte.ie/archives, or on Twitter via @rtearchives.
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