LAST week saw the launch of Irish TV, an independent service beaming grassroots programmes to the Diaspora. To celebrate its arrival, here’s a totally arbitrary top 10 memorable broadcasting moments from Irish TV and radio.
The Republic’s first official broadcast took place during the 1916 Rising. You didn’t know that, did you? One of Pearse’s primary actions was to use the wireless telegraph in the GPO to declare a Republic to the world.
The morse transmission reached America where the papers reported “Revolt in Ireland”. Ireland’s first radio news bulletin read: “Irish Republic declared in Dublin today. Irish troops have captured city and are in full possession. Enemy cannot move in city. The whole country rising.”
Pearse had, inadvertently, become the world’s first pirate radio star.
Soaps have always been society’s great weather vane. Fair City’s 1996 gay kiss between Eoghan and Liam marked a shift in attitudes to homosexuality. Maggie going on the pill in The Riordans showed modern post-Catholic Ireland emerging.
Glenroe’s 1997 Christmas special highlighted the, er, plight of Ireland’s sex-starved farmers. Chiefly, crag-faced, Brillo Pad-haired Miley Byrne.
The words ‘Miley’ and ‘raunchy’ may have lost their shock value thanks to Ms Cyrus, but back in the 1990s they were hugely controversial (and unexpected). A 1997 Glenroe Yuletide special was marked by the sound of a million viewers throwing up into their Christmas stockings as farmer Miley had sex with babysitter Fidelma in the haggard.
It was horrendous, but compelling, as Miley was about as sexy as a walrus in a g-string.
“You’re looking a bit haggard there, Fidelma.”
“Yes, I’m Byrned out.”
The Late Late Show has given us more memorable moments than any other programme on Irish TV or radio. Remember Oliver Reed leaping on Susan George?
Then there was Pee Flynn bemoaning the high cost of running multiple homes? (Pity Ollie Reed wasn’t there to give him a smack.)
The most cringe-inducing Late Late moment EVER involved Twink (don’t argue with me — it was). In 2008, the show devoted a segment to her talking about life (Zzzzz) and showing off her weight loss. Later, we were promised/threatened, Twink would pose for us in lingerie. Yes, LINGERIE.
The Plain People of Ireland waited, fearfully, for Twink’s catwalk debut to arrive. Mercifully, her choice of lingerie wasn’t very revealing.
The spectacle was marginally less exciting than being forced to watch Enda Kenny pole-dancing. It was still a special moment, though, if only for the grim anticipation.
’Twink’ by the way, is gay slang for a young-looking man. So don’t go googling ‘Twink’ and ‘underwear’. I did. Jaysus.
Remember when Patcheen put a Corkwoman in her place when she appeared to be rude to him? Barbara had won tickets to the Toy Show and the audience was in a state of high excitement. Barbara wasn’t. She wasn’t “particularly interested” in going, she said.
Pat took her tickets from his pocket and ripped them up. And damned right too. How dare she not grovel.
Here’s a question: why did Pat have them in his pocket in the first place? Was he personally going to nip down to her house with them? Well, Pat??
Kids visiting the station in the 1970s (myself included) were often heartbroken to find their beloved Wanderly Wagon was just an empty wooden prop. It had no furniture or magical cuckoo clock. (Sad face.)
However, the wagon did contain one thing of note: graffiti. On the wood below the hatch, a wag had written in indelible ink: ‘MISTER CROW’S A WANKER’.
Crow’s handler had to sit through scores of episodes with his fist up the bird’s backside, and those words staring him in the face.
No wonder the bird was so bloody annoying.
Larry Gogan’s Just-a-Minute quiz was a fertile ground for memorable radio moments. Here are three:
What stars do travellers follow?
What’s the capital of France?
Can you divide 48 by 16?
Ireland was the first country to broadcast dancing on the radio. Do not adjust your set — you really did read the words ‘Dancing’, ‘On’, ‘The’ and ‘Radio’.
In 1953, RTÉ began transmitting Take the Floor, with host Din Joe, to audiences of over a million listeners. It featured an hour of people shouting “hup-ye-boy-ye” and dancing to the Garda Céilí Band. It wasn’t the daftest idea the station ever had: that would be the 1978 one-hour special performance by mime artist Marcel Marceau.
The second was to extend the News For The Deaf to radio in 1984. OK, I just made that up.
In 1969, listeners to RTÉ radio were treated to, arguably, the bizarrest continuity announcement in the station’s history. Here’s how silky-voiced Treasa Davison introduced the news:
“It’s 8 o’clock, and here is the news from [silence]…[more silence]… EEEEEKKKK!!! Ohhh, I beg your pardon …. [silence] … now the time is … OOOOOH… [stressed-out silence]… I had better apologise, a mouse has just run across my desk.”
We can’t do a round-up of broadcasting moments without including UTV (they’re Irish too), and, in particular, ginger-haired Julian Simmons.
During a report from the Ideal Homes Show, Julian decided to throw himself onto a bed to do his piece-to-camera. Unfortunately, the bed wasn’t used to vigorous activity by UTV presenters. Viewers heard a loud crack, followed by Julian saying, “Jesus, I’ve broke the fucking bed!”
Staying on the subject of beds… UTV Live had a singularly honest moment during a vox pop about the safety of electric blankets.
“They’re very dangerous,” an elderly gent informed the reporter.
“In what way?” she asked.
“What if you wet yourself?”
Terry Wogan is Ireland’s most successful broadcaster, so that’s grounds enough for him to be included. He wins the prize for Most Stupid Question Ever to a Drunken Irishman.
In 1990, he recklessly asked a locked George Best what he liked to do with his time.
“I like to screw,” replied George.
Speaking of being screwed…
In 2003, RTÉ asked 11 inexperienced contestants to sail a two-masted schooner around the coast for eight weeks.
Only in Ireland could someone come up with such a concept. “Here’s a huge ship, lads. Away you go. What? You don’t know how to sail? Sure what’s the worst that can happen?”
Two weeks in, the worst happened. The Cabin Fever ship sank off Tory Island. This would have been the Most Dramatic Maritime Moment in Irish Broadcasting History, except for one thing. The RTÉ film crew had gone home to bed and missed the sinking. Fianna Fáil’s Barry Andrews later questioned “the wisdom of sending out 11 people with no sailing experience…” Inexperienced people in charge of a sinking ship? What? Like Fianna Fáil, Barry?