Dr Tóibín chuffed at college honour

“I’M probably fairly tame now and can’t do any more damage so they gave me a doctorate,” was how a modest Niall Tóibín summed up UCC’s decision to grant him an honorary doctorate.

Looking fresh and spritely, one of the finest comics, mimics and actors this country has ever produced said he would have placed himself well down the list of people to be bestowed the honour of Doctor of Arts.

“If you had asked me at any time in the last 70 or 80 years, or whatever I am, who would be the least likely candidate for a doctorate, I would have said ‘Me’. If I had gone to college, I would have said ‘I’, but there you go.

“I am very pleased and very chuffed. There were, obviously, certain times in my career when this would have been impossible. People would have been out with placards on the streets saying ‘No, No, No’.

“But now everybody is prepared to accept that I’m probably fairly tame now and can’t do any more damage so they gave me a doctorate.”

Regaling all around him with jokes and stories, Mr Tóibín found it hard to pick a favourite part of his career but said his portrayal of Brendan Behan’s Borstal Boy was a part that changed his life.

“Some of the heavy stuff I did was very good. Borstal Boy changed the whole course of my life really, especially after we went to Broadway with it. From then on I was involved with a totally different game.

“Television and that became more likely to happen and I have been kept busy all the years.

“I very rarely had any anxiety about work and I have been very lucky. But I worked very, very hard.”

If one famous son of Cork wasn’t enough, composer and trombonist Bobby Lamb was also honoured as a Doctor of Music by the university.

Known as one of the best trombonists in the world, Mr Lamb said he was “knocked out” by the honour and pointed out he had played his very first gig on the campus on the same day of the year when he was 13 or 14.

The names of those he worked with over the years read like a history of the development of modern popular music.

“Who was the most amazing? Frank Sinatra.

“Who was a favourite? I’d say someone like Louis Armstrong because of his sense of humour. He would get very close to you and tell you some dreadful jokes which unfortunately I can’t repeat. Sammy Davis Jr was a lovely man, but he was too nice. In that business, you have to have some teeth to survive. He was a lovely man.”

Also honoured with a Doctor of Laws was Mr Justice Francis Murphy.

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