Shape I'm In: Aonghus McAnally on his Christy Hennessy tribute tour

Aonghus McAnally is about to go on a nationwide tour in memory of Christy Hennessy, the man and his music, writes Irene Feighan.

SHOW BUSINESS is not only in Aonghus McAnally’s veins, it’s also the oxygen that fuels him throughout the day, no matter how long it is.

A recent Friday started at 7am when he signed on as series producer for RTÉ radio’s Liveline and finished at 2am when he signed off as the presenter of Late Date. But he is not about to complain about it.

“I love it,” he says. “The oxygen of performing. What else would you be doing?”

The son of Abbey actress Ronnie Masterson and BAFTA-winning actor Ray McAnally, his first TV role was as Fergus the Magic Postman in Wanderly Wagon in his early 20s. He went on to star in Anything Goes, RTE’s hugely successful programme for young people.

His father died suddenly in 1989 aged 63. The loss has left an indelible mark. As a dad of two adult sons, he’s keenly aware of his own mortality now he’s 62 years old. “That’s why I mind myself — I try to live as healthy a lifestyle as I can, given the long hours that I do,” he says.

His close friend Christy Hennessy also passed away before his time in 2007 aged just 62. But the folk singer/composer is never far from his thoughts as he prepares for a second nationwide tour performing 22 of the Hennessy’s best-known songs.

“I sing, I play guitar and I’ve musicians on stage with me and I speak as me and then I become Christie.

“I definitely feel his presence around me... it’s not just a tribute, it’s deeply, deeply personal to me.”

Celebrating Christie Hennessy — The Platinum Collection, Friday, October 6, Cork Opera House.

What shape are you in?

I’m in reasonably good shape. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke which I think is a good starting point. I drank for a couple of years when I was a teenager and I stopped when I was 19 and I never had a drink since. I had grown up in a family that was very aware of AA, so I recognised in myself enough of the traits of somebody for whom alcohol isn’t a friend. Forty years later, I’m very proud of that.

I don’t get as much exercise as I should. I used to play a lot of golf but I haven’t had a chance to play much now. I do play billiards — I’m on the Irish billiards team.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I make my own lunch as we eat at the desk on Liveline — tuna, sweetcorn, tomatoes, cottage cheese, balsamic vinegar and grapes — my wife, Billie, thinks the grapes are mad.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

Realising my life’s dream of having a full-size billiard table in the house and being able to play whenever I want.

What would keep you awake at night?

Worrying have I done everything for the next day. I prepare most things well in advance but sometimes I leave it until the last minute.

How do you relax?

I love watching good drama on TV or going to the theatre.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

Paul McCartney, Bridget Moynahan ( from Blue Bloods) Tommy Emmanuel (guitar wizard) and Barbra Streisand.

What’s your favourite smell?

A good Thai red curry — lemon grass, coconut milk … heaven.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I did thanks to HRBR in Blackrock— I had gone completely bald on top and now I have my hair back. The change in confidence is remarkable. My mam passed away and it was her gift to me.

When is the last time you cried?

I cry all the time... Very often tears of joys and happiness. A romantic movie and I am in bits. My children have slagged me for years about it.

What traits do you least like in others?

I don’t like people who seem to get a thrill out of putting others down.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

I do occasionally leave things to the last minute and can get a bit panicky. While I am good to a deadline, I am no a natural self-starter. I also find it hard to say no to people.

Do you pray?

Not really. I don’t really think it’s as much about praying rather than how you live your life that counts. I don’t believe that there is someone somewhere marking us out of 10 and, as a result, deciding where we go when we die.

What would cheer up your day?

Believing that the work and entertaining I do gives people pleasure and enjoyment. Sometimes we all doubt ourselves more than we should.


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