Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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.

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