Much loved RTE broadcaster, Derek Davis, passed away earlier today. Last December he gave this thought provoking and honest interview to the Irish Examiner. We highlight it here in full in tribute to a man whose unique 'voice' will be missed by many.
"Every fat man is used to rejection.
I was always an extrovert but it is only in retrospect that I see that you construct a persona to fit your person. Being a fat person, I constructed a persona to go along with my size.
It started in the school yard and then I practised sarcastic wit when I was at boarding school, polishing the technique when I got to Queens University in Belfast where I was a law student. I won lots of prizes for debating. Then I got into an argument at the Wellington Park Hotel with someone who turned out to be a BBC producer. He suggested I might like to contribute to a programme and that led to an audition which led to being trained as a BBC reporter.
The best advice I can give aspiring broadcasters is: it doesn’t matter. Relax. When you are doing a piece to camera you don’t have to remember lines, just give information. We’re not heart surgeons or bomb disposal experts: we are just reporters. It is a rare occasion when it’s life and death. If it all goes wrong the worst is that you will be a bit embarrassed and risk a bollocking.
I got buried in the books from an early age. As a Catholic growing up in a Protestant town, quite a lot of activities, like the boy’s brigade and scouts, were closed to me on religious grounds.
I left the North because I was afraid of getting shot. I was scared stiff of the work I was doing as a reporter. I became an ABC stringer and wrote some comedy sketches for Frank Hall, taking the mickey out of country and western singers, following that, a promoter asked if I would consider fronting a showband down South. I was single, in my early twenties — so I said yes. Later on, I became a night editor in RTÉ.
I’m a newsaholic, I still read the papers from cover to cover every day and keep up with radio and television news.
My career has been a series of fortuitous accidents. There have been disappointments of course. I remember going for Director of Communications in RTÉ and not getting it.
I am far from disciplined but nothing concentrates the mind like having a family to feed. I worked like hell when I was presenting on RTÉ. I enjoyed it but needed rather than loved the work; it satisfied a deep seated need for affirmation. I’ve refused more work than I have accepted since I retired.
My biggest fault is a low boredom threshold. And tetchiness. I try to be affable but the older I get the crankier I become. I tolerate fools less and no longer worry about being overly polite.
The trait I most admire in others is creativity. I admire great wordsmiths. My mother was a painter and my father was an art dealer so I also appreciate talented artists.
READ MORE: Presenter Derek Davis dies, aged 67 .
I have always been passionate about boats and fishing, ever since my father took me to Donaghadee and gave me a rod and a fixed line to lure in the mackerel and pollock.
I am cheerfully agnostic. I have no idea if there is an afterlife.
I have just lost five stone. I had a major operation called a sleeve gastrectomy, a surgical weight-loss procedure where the stomach is reduced in size. I did it to improve both the quality and the potential length of my life.
I was diagnosed with diabetes 20 years ago and the heavy doses of insulin made it hard to lose or control weight. My organs were all under pressure and I was sure there was some nasty health scare, like a stroke or heart attack, in store for me, but part of me thought oh well I’ve had a great life. Then a year ago I became a grandfather for the first time and decided I wanted to stick around, so the surgery was a pragmatic decision.
It was a meeting with an endocrinologist, Carel le Roux, the heaviest hitter this side of the Atlantic, that convinced me about the operation. He asked me simply: were you overweight always? I said yes. He said ‘it is probably not your fault.’ I couldn’t believe my ears. I’d had fat guilt all my life — you buy into this — that it was my fault, because I had no moral fibre. But he said no, it’s all down to a hormone called GLP3 which is found in the gut. If levels of this hormone are low, you will eat more.
One major lesson in life has been: when things go wrong, don’t lie down and roll over."
* Derek Davis was speaking to Hilary Fennell
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