Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Irish Broadcasting: EAMONN ANDREWS

The Irish Broadcasting: EAMONN ANDREWS: Eamonn was born on Synge Street, Dublin, Ireland on December 19th 1922, the same street as playwright George Bernard Shaw. He was educate...

EAMONN ANDREWS

Eamonn was born on Synge Street, Dublin, Ireland on December 19th 1922, the same street as playwright George Bernard Shaw. He was educated at the local school, Synge Street CBS. He began his working career as a clerk in an insurance office. He was a keen amateur boxer and won the Irish junior middleweight title in 1944. His journalistic talent was being rewarded from an early age as shown in this press clipping from the Irish Press newspaper in May 1936
In 1946, he became a full-time freelance sports commentator, working for Radio Éireann, Ireland's national broadcaster. In 1950, he began presenting programmes for the BBC, being particularly well known for boxing commentaries, and soon became one of television's most popular presenters. His first regular presenting job on the ‘wireless’ as it was known then was the BBC Light Service quiz show ‘Ignorance is Bliss’ with co stars Harold Berens, Gladys Hays and Michael Moore. Eamonn had mastered the technique of the quiz shows on stage in Dublin where he presented variety show inserts like ‘Double Your Money’.
In 1955, Andrews made a brief appearance on film, appearing on camera as the narrator who introduces the unrelated segments that comprise the portmanteau film, Three Cases of Murder. He was even talent scouting pre X Factor days and a youthful Dickie Rock appeared on stage.
In 1951 despite his nervousness about appearing on television he became host of the panel game ‘What’s My Line’ which he stayed with until 1963 briefly reprising the role from 1984-1987. The programme and Andrews became instant hits: audiences enjoyed the clashes between Eamonn and the outspoken panellist Gilbert Harding. Andrews once outwitted the blindfolded panel himself when he 'signed in' with a falsetto voice as the show's mystery celebrity guest, earning himself a diploma. He became a household name, "I was addressed as Raymond - and, once, even as Amen Andrews"
He presented a number of Children’s TV programmes including ‘Playbox’ in 1955 and ‘Crackerjack’ from 1955 to 1964. In 1955 he earned the position of host of an American imported programme format and for decades was closely associated with ‘This is Your Life’. His first programme was to be the presentation of the famous red book to football legend Sir Stanley Matthews but a British newspaper leaked the story and with some surprise the shows creator Ralph Edwards handed the red book to Eamonn himself. He was the subject again of a ‘red book’ in 1974 when the show was hosted by magician David Nixon.
Throughout the 1950s, he commentated on the major British heavyweight fights on the BBC Light Programme, with inter-round summaries by J. Barrington Dalby. Upon his death British heavyweight boxer Henry Cooper described Eamonn as ‘the best boxing commentator ever’. On 20 January 1956, he reached #18 in the UK Singles Chart with a "spoken narrative" recording named "The Shifting Whispering Sands (Parts 1 & 2)", which had musical backing by the Ron Goodwin Orchestra and Chorus.
When the Irish Government finally settled on the plan for state involvement in a new Irish television service they asked Eamonn to come back to Ireland and assist. He chaired the Radio Éireann Authority (now the RTÉ Authority) between 1960 and 1964, overseeing the introduction of television to Ireland on December 31st 1961. About this time, he also acquired a number of business interests in Ireland, including recording studios and a dance hall.
In 1964 he returned to the UK and in that same year when his contract with the BBC expired he moved to commercial television. He initially worked for ABC who later merged with Rediffusion to create Thames Television. He initially presented his own chat show from 1964 – 1969 and the sports round up programme The World of Sport from 1965 – 1968. In 1969 the This is Your Life show transferred to ITV and Eamonn was once again the host, the show running continuously with Eamonn until 1987. Celebrity guests included: Bill Shankly, Sir Tom Finney, Anna Neagle, Muhammad Ali, Ken Dodd, David Nixon, Frankie Howerd, Norman Wisdom, David Jason, Jeremy Beadle, Anne Kirkbride, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Harry Hill, John Motson, Frank Skinner, Jim Davidson, Bob Carolgees, Charlie Cairoli, Joan Collins, Bernard Manning, Shirley Bassey, Stephen Behan (father of Brendan Behan and Dominic Behan).
Actor Windsor Davies famous for his role in 'Ain't Half Hot Mum', Sydney McEwan, Peter Davison, Alfred Marks, Brian Rix, George Best, Spike Milligan, Jon Pertwee, Eric Sykes, Marty Wilde, Justin Hayward, Rick Wakeman, Bernard Braden, Paul Young, Gary Glitter, actor Patrick Macnee, The Bee Gees pop group, Goodies members Bill Oddie & Tim Brooke-Taylor, producer Bill Kenwright, Liverpool footballer Kenny Dalglish, Barbara Windsor, and DJ John Peel. Lynn Redgrave, in December 1996, was caught while taking her bow in her one-woman show on stage at the Haymarket Theatre, the only time the Redgrave clan including Michael and Sir John, was seen together on stage at the same time. Bob Hope and Dudley Moore have been the only subjects of two-part editions of the programme, in 1970 and 1987 respectively. Both were broadcast over two weeks. Clive Mantle's profile included a post-credits sequence where he thanked the audience for coming. Footballer Danny Blanchflower turned down the "red book" in February 1961, as did author Richard Gordon (of Doctor in the House fame) in 1974. In 2001, Bill Oddie (of The Goodies) initially turned it down, but changed his mind and appeared on the show. Actor Richard Beckinsale was a feature on the show shortly after his 31st birthday, eight months before his death. ‘Whats My Line?’ also moved to ITV with Eamonn at the helm from 1984-1987. The show blindfolded the panel who had to guess either the name or the occupation of the guest. He was a regular host of the Miss World contest and was voted television personality of the year four time. He once said ‘I became, almost overnight, a face. I acquired that new, meaningless description for people who can neither sing nor dance nor juggle nor play the harp - a personality. Television personality.’ He was famous for coming up with off-the-cuff linkings which did not work – such as 'speaking of cheese sandwiches, have you come far?' This was parodied by the character Seamus Android in the BBC radio programme Round the Horne in the 1960s, performed by Bill Pertwee. At the time Andrews hosted a chat show on ITV. He was also famous for sweating while on screen, as parodied by another BBC radio programme The Burkiss Way. Andrews' contribution to UK radio is commemorated in The Radio Academy's Hall of Fame.
In the late 1960s, at the height of the Cold War and Vietnam War, he showed his serious side when at his own expense he interviewed many notables to ask them their current opinions, and what they thought the world would be like twenty years into the future. He planned to invite them back, to screen what they had said, and to chat about how accurate they had been. He didn't live to record the second part; the tapes exist in the family's archives, and have never been viewed. After months of illness, thought to have originally begun as a virus picked up on a plane trip and exacerbated by a heavy work load including travelling to Hollywood to record editions of This is Your Life, his wife forced Eamonn to check himself into the Cromwell Hospital in London for tests. That night he passed away peacefully on November 5TH 1987, aged 64. His widow, Gráinne Bourke, whom he married in 1951, and adopted three children with died 18 months later.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

MICHAEL O'HEHIR

‘Bail ó Dhia oraibh a chairde Gael agus fáilte romhaibh go Páirc an Chrócaigh’ Known as the voice of the GAA for almost fifty years, Michael was born in Glasnevin, Dublin on June 20th 1920 to parents from County Clare. His father, Jim O'Hehir, who was born in Lack, County Clare was active in the GAA, having trained his native county to win the 1914 All-Ireland title in hurling. He subsequently trained the Leitrim football team who secured the 1927 Connacht provincial title and later serving as an official with the GAA Dublin Junior Board and chairman of Civil Service and St.Vincents Dublin GAA clubs. Michael was educated at St. Patrick's National School in Drumcondra before later attending the O'Connell School, a Christian Brothers-run institution in the city centre. He later studied electrical engineering at University College Dublin, however, he abandoned his studies after just one year to pursue a full-time career in broadcasting.He enjoyed a distinguished hurling career with the St. Vincent's club in Raheny. Michael became fascinated with the radio when he received a present of one as a child. He had just turned eighteen and was still a school-boy when he wrote to Radio Éireann asking to do a test commentary. He was accepted and was asked, along with five others, to do a five-minute microphone test for a National Football League game between Wexford and Louth. His microphone test impressed the director of broadcasting T.J. Kiernan so much that he was invited to commentate on the whole of the second half of the match. Two months later in August 1938 Michael made his first broadcast - the All-Ireland football semi-final when Galway defeated Monaghan at Mullingar’s Cusack Park. He went on to commentate on the second semi-final and that year's final between Galway and Kerry. The following year he covered his first hurling final - the famous "thunder and lightning final" as Kilkenny beat Cork by a score of 2-7 to 3-3. Sports broadcasting in Ireland was still in its infancy at this stage, however, his Sunday afternoon commentaries quickly became a way of life for many rural listeners who gathered around radio sets to listen to the games. As a man who could ‘make a boring game interesting’, by the mid-1940s Michael was recognised as one of Ireland's leading sports broadcasters. In 1947 he faced his most challenging broadcast to date when he had to commentate on the All-Ireland Football Final from the Polo Grounds in New York City. Over 1,000,000 people were listening to the broadcast back in Ireland and he was the one link between the game in New York and the fans in Ireland. The broadcast had to be finished by five o'clock local time, however, the match ran late. The last few minutes of his commentary included him pleading with the broadcast technicians not to take him off the air. His pleas were successful and the Irish people were able to listen to the game in full.
In 1944 Michael joined the staff of Independent Newspapers as a sports sub-editor, before beginning a seventeen-year career as racing correspondent in 1947. His racing expertise was not just limited to print journalism as he became a racing commentator with Radio Éireann in 1945. Even though his reputation was on the up with the national broadcaster in Ireland, he applied to the BBC for a position as racing commentator. His application was accepted and he provided commentary for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The BBC bosses were sufficiently impressed with him to offer him further commentaries. Michael describes the chaotic scene at the 23rd fence in the 1967 Grand National “Rutherfords has been hampered, and so has Castle Falls; Rondetto has fallen, Princeful has fallen, Norther has fallen, Kirtle Lad has fallen, The Fossa has fallen, there's a right pile-up... Leedsy has climbed over the fence and left his jockey there. And now, with all this mayhem, Foinavon has gone off on his own! He's about 50, 100 yards in front of everything else” He subsequently became a staple of the BBC's coverage of the Aintree Grand National, arguably the most famous horse race in the world. It is a role that would be continued by his son Tony who followed in his father’s footsteps. He would invariably pick up the commentary at the Becher's Brook fence and take the race to Valentine's Brook, a vital section of the race where many a favourite fell. Foinavon's famous victory in 1967 will be remembered as one of his finest moments in racing commentaries and won him great respect for the speed and smoothness with which he picked out the unconsidered outsider.
Michael later confessed in an interview that he it had been his inability to identify the colours on his card when inspecting the riders silks in the weighing room prior to the race that had led him to question rider John Buckingham who his mount was. Buckingham advised him that Foinavon's silks had been changed at the last minute as his regular green colours were considered unlucky. It was because of this chance meeting that he was able to identify the 100/1 outsider and carry the commentary. In addition to horseracing he also covered showjumping, including the annual Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Ballsbridge. In 1961 Ireland's first national television station, Telefís Éireann, was founded and Michael was appointed head of sports programmes. As a result of his influence he secured the broadcasting rights to the closing stages of the All-Ireland hurling and football championships for the new station. As well as his new role he continued to keep up a hectic schedule of commentaries. He continued in the position until 1972 when he was replaced by Fred Cogley. Michael’s skills did not just confine him to sports broadcasting and, in November 1963, he faced his toughest broadcast. By sheer coincidence he was on holidays with his wife Molly in New York when US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was asked by Telefís Éireann to provide the commentary for the funeral. The live five-hour broadcast proved a huge challenge for him, as he had had no association with political or current affairs broadcasting up to that point and lacked the resources available to more established television stations. His commentary, however, won widespread acclaim in Ireland and showed a different side of his nature. He later described it as the most moving and most demanding commentary of his career. Michael was known in the United States prior to this as he had worked with ABC as a racing commentator. His presentation of the Kennedy funeral brought offers from ABC, however, he preferred to remain in Ireland. Michael later provided commentaries for other non-sporting events such as the repatriation and funeral of the remains of Roger Casement in 1965 and the celebrations marking the golden jubilee of the Easter Rising in 1966.
In the early 1970s the initial challenge of being head of sport had faded as Telefís Éireann was now an established broadcaster. In 1972 he became manager of the newly designed Leopardstown Racecourse but left the following year to continue writing and broadcasting as a freelance journalist. This work took him to the United States where he commentated for NBC in races such as the Arlington Million. This association with the American broadcaster lasted well into the eighties. In 1975 Michael was honoured by The Late Late Show with a special tribute show. In his commentary he aimed at impartiality but admitted that he was always blamed for being "against the losers." Similarly he was also blamed for making a game out of nothing. Shortly after Dublin defeated Galway in 1983 in a tense All-Ireland final about thirty Dublin supporters attacked him in the commentary box when he was commentating at another match in Navan. Only the presence of an armed detective - there to protect the microphone - saved him from serious injury.
In August 1985 Michael was preparing to commentate on the All-Ireland hurling final between Offaly and Galway. It would be a special occasion as it would mark his 100th commentary on an All-Ireland final. Two weeks before the game he suffered a stroke which left him using a wheelchair and with some speaking difficulties. This illness denied him the chance to reach the century milestone. He was subsequently replaced by Ger Canning on television, and on radio by Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh. He had hoped to return to broadcasting one day to complete his 100th final, however, this never happened. In 1987 the centenary All-Ireland football final took place and a special series of events was planned on the day at Croke Park. There was a parade of the 1947 Polo Grounds finalists, however, the biggest cheer of the day was reserved for Michael who was pushed onto the field in a wheelchair by his son Peter. Nobody expected the standing ovation and the huge outpouring of emotion from the thousands of fans present and from himself.
Over the next few years Michael alas withdrew from public life. He returned briefly in 1996 when his autobiography, My Life and Times, was published. Michael O'Hehir passed away in Dublin on 24 November 1996.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

MARK CAGNEY

Mark Cagney was born in 1956 in Cork, Ireland. Cagney was the eldest of eight children but he left home at age 15 due to a difficult relationship with his father, who he described as a "remarkable man": an inventor, a musician, a mechanic, and a lecturer in electronics. His father was a professional double bass player with Irish Showbands like ‘The Regal Showband’. Cagney learned how to take care of himself as a result of being on his own so early. He longed to have some musical ability, but settled for working with a variety of bands. He also learned about audio and audio studio processes; this got him a job as a shore-based radio operator in Cork Harbour. As a young lad Mark listened on a crystal radio set to Radio Luxembourg and Radio Northsea to hear the music of a generation that was being ignored on the national broadcaster RTE. He quickly developed an ambition to be ‘the king of late night radio’.
As a teenager Mark was being paid £2.50 to act as roadie for a number of bands including Horslips before a chance meeting with a DJ Ken Fitzgerald Smith proved that Mark could get more pay DJing as Smith earned ten pounds for his gig. Mark did not complete his secondary school education and he ended up devoting his pay check to visiting night clubs; when a disk jockey did not show up for work, Cagney was asked to fill in, doing well enough at it to become a regular on the pirate radio station CBC (Cork Broadcasting Corporation) using the on air name ‘Mark Green’. At that time he was on air with another RTE stalwart John Creedon. Mark now had two jobs. Before long his illegal days were behind him after local RTE man Paddy O’Connor gave Mark an audition for the local channel RTE Local Radio Cork. Mark began presenting a programme called ‘New Releases’ on Cork Local Radio on March 11th 1977. The first song he reviewed was ‘My Best friends Girl’ by the Cars.
He moved to Donnybrook in 1977 working as a fill in presenter on a number of shows and on May 31sy 1979 he was part of the original line-up of 2FM, broadcasting on its first night on air. He originally shared the hosting of ‘Night Moves’ with Jimmy Greeley, Jimmy presenting mid week and Mark on the weekends. When he first began with 2FM, he called himself "Mark Anthony". Mark would later present a variety of shows, from the seminal Night Train to the Drivetime show. In 1985 he won a Jacobs' Award for his midnight radio show. While at RTE he got his first taste of TV presenting on RTE2’s ‘Irelands Eye’ magazine show and inserts on the iconic MT USA with the late Vincent Hanley. In 1989 he joined the new 98FM for what Mark freely admits was for the financial gain and stability the job gave him. He remained at 98FM for seven years. He had been poached away from the national broadcaster as part of Denis O’Brien’s Radio 2000 franchise bid to the IRTC. He then joined the national commercial Today FM in 1998 before leaving the world of radio to work in front of the cameras at TV3 Ireland. He won the TV Personality of the Year Award in 2005 at the 3rd Irish Film and Television Awards. Today he still hosts the breakfast show Ireland AM on TV3. Ireland AM was TV3’s serious attempt to improve its rating and without breakfast TV competition from RTE, the show was a hit for the commercial channel. The show first went on air at 7am on September 20th 1999, one year after TV3s launch. The original presenters were Mark and Amanda Byram. Mark is still with the show requiring a 3.30am alarm call to be at the Ballymount studios by 5am.
`Bill (Hughes) told me an old pal Andrew Hanlon was to be in charge of it. Andrew and I had been in 98FM together so I rang him up. I said, `Andrew, I'm probably not right for it, I'm probably 'way too old, but you'll be auditioning 150 people so 151 won't make any difference. I want a shot at it. He sounded surprised, but said, `OK, we're starting the real auditions at 2.30 tomorrow, so you can come in at 2pm.' And I did, and after a second test Andrew called and said the gig was mine if I wanted it, and here I am. I was at a stage and at a place in my life that a radical change was almost inevitable.’
He lives in Dublin with his second wife Audrey Byrne and their 4 children. Mark met Audrey while they both worked at 98FM in Dublin. His first wife, Ann Humphries, whom he met when he was 19, died of a brain haemorrhage after suddenly collapsing while shopping on Grafton Street. The couple had been married 11 years. When Ann died, Cagney was devastated and admitted to contemplating suicide. Audrey provided emotional support which turned into love.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ANNOUNCEMENT OF 2012 INDUCTEES

The 2012 Irish Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductees will be announced on January 22nd 2013. Voting closes at Midnight (Irish time) on December 31st 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

VINCENT HANLEY

Vincent was born in 1954 in Clonmel, County Tipperary to parents Michael and Joan Hanley. As a teenager Vincent moved to Cork where he got a job with RTE Cork Local Radio and by 1975 was presenting ‘Music on The Move’ on the local channel. In 1976 he presented an RTE television show ‘Me and My Music’ where he interviewed Gilbert O’Sullivan. In 1977 he moved to Dublin and was working in Donnybrook on the ‘Record Requests’ as RTE increased its pop music output to challenge the growing umber of pirate radio stations. In May 1979 he was one of the first DJ’s on RTE Radio 2 with its slogan ‘Cominatya’. He presented the mid morning show on the station that aired from 9.30am to Noon.
In 1981, Vincent left RTE and moved to Capital Radio in London and did some TV work for London Weekend Television. In 1983 with fellow RTE colleague Conor McAnally (son of actor Ray McAnally) they set up Green Apple Productions an independent television production company. Their first sale to RTE was a three hour Sunday afternoon music video show presented by Vincent from New York. The show ‘MT USA’ was a rating and advertising winner for RTE 2 and was broadcast from 1984 – 1987.
In 1986 Vincent became ill and gaunt in appearance. He returned to Ireland in December 1986 and was admitted to St. James’s Hospital under the care of Dr. Peter Daly who would treat the DJ for an AIDS related illness. Although illegal in Ireland at that time, Vincent was in fact gay. He passed away on April 18th 1987.

CHARLES MITCHEL

Charles Gerald Mitchel (8 November 1920 – 18 August 1996) is best remembered as a newsreader on RTE from 1961 until 1984. He was the first person to read the news on the new Telefís Éireann. Charles Mitchel was born in Dublin in 1920 to parents Albert and Netta Michel. He was educated at the famed Clongowes Wood College boarding school in Clane, County Kildare and subsequently attended Trinity College Dublin where he studied forestry. It was here that his interest in acting developed and he quickly became a leading member of the Trinity Players. Mitchel left Trinity in 1947 without taking a degree but he immediately joined the Gate Theatre where he played with the Longford company until 1958. With an interest in comedic roles he starred in plays like Peter Coke’s ‘Breath of Spring’ with Anna Manahan, Maureen Toal and Jim Fitzgerald and Noel Coward’s ‘Hay Fever’ with Aidan Grennell. He was one of the founders of the Irish Actors Equity union. He played the the role of ‘Big George’ in the 1961 made British movie ‘Ambush in Leopard Street’ starring Bruce Seton and Pauline Delaney which was made at Ardmore Studios in Bray, County Wicklow and the part of ‘Brossier’ in the 1961 movie ‘Enter Inspector Duval’ with Aidan Grennell and Anton Diffring in the title role of the French police Inspector. In 1979 he played the familiar role of a newscaster in the movie ‘The Outsider’ with T.P. McKenna and Craig Wasson.
In 1961 Mitchel joined the newly formed state television station, Telefís Éireann, as chief newscaster. He won the position from a field of 131 candidates with a starting salary was £26 per week. Mitchel was one of the first faces seen on the new station when he read the first news bulletin at 9pm on 31 December 1961, minutes after the station was launched. He received numerous honours, including being awarded television personality of the year, and was the first RTÉ presenter to win a Jacobs' Award. Everyone of a certain age remembers where they were when Charles Mitchel sobbed as he told the nation that JFK was slain. He interrupted an episode of The Thin Man, starring JFK's brother-in-law Peter Lawford, to break the news.
In 1981 his role of newsreader was enhanced as the readers positions were augmented with journalistic work therefore joining the National Union of Journalists. But the news department and how the news was being delivered was under review. In 1983 a major row broke out when he and fellow newsreader Maurice O’Doherty were moved from their slot on the 9pm television news to radio. Mitchel retired from RTE in November 1984 presenting his final television newscast. In 1989 he briefly joined LMFM, a local radio station in Co. Louth, where he read the news and answered listeners' queries.
Mitchel was keenly interested in animal welfare and served from 1983 – 1986 as vice-president of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He bred basset hounds and adjudicated at dog shows. One of his dogs appeared in the first advertisement for former Taoiseach Albert Reynold’s C&D pet food company. Mitchel married Elizabeth ('Betty') Stubbs on 9 May 1949 and they had two children, Nicholas and Susan. He died in a August 1996 in the Bloomfield Nursing Home, Donnybrook and is buried at Glasnevin cemetery.