Long-serving RTÉ radio presenter and sometime TV personality John Creedon talks to Kay Doyle about his work, family and life growing up in Cork
For many of us, 11am on Christmas morning will be a busy time – checking the turkey in the oven, getting potatoes ready to roast and greeting neighbours and family with the goodwill of the season. For RTÉ Radio 1’s John Creedon though, the show must go on, where 11am on Christmas Day has become his traditional time slot to play Christmas carols and long distance dedications to his hundreds of thousands of listeners at home and abroad.
As we sit over tea and apple tart in John’s beautiful Cork home, the much-loved broadcaster is in great form as he looks forward to the festive season.
John has four grown-up daughters Katie, Nanci, Martha and Meg (both in Melbourne). Christmas morning will be spent with his partner Mairead Heffernan and his daughters Katie and Nanci along with his beloved granddaughters Mollie, 5, and Rosie, 2, where the family will enjoy a nice hearty breakfast before John “shuffles through the streets of Cork in the half-light” to RTE studios. Dedications will pour in from all over the world, wishing loved ones a Happy Christmas through his friendly dulcet tones.
“The big thing for me about Christmas is the crib,” says the Corkman, in that familiar radio voice. “I just love the crib. It tells a universal story about a family of refugees on the run with no place to stay. They’re just regular folk. I look at Saint Joseph and think ‘you poor aul divil’ it’s tough being a dad, you have to provide and make sure Mary and Jesus are okay. I love too that all classes and creeds are in the crib – not unlike my own parents growing up, there were kings and shepherds and everybody inside in that stable, even the animals.
“I have great fun with my grandchildren at Christmas, especially with the crib – they could end up putting Spiderman into it. At home years ago, my dad built us a crib for the family shop window. It was big with a red light and a jingle. Over the years, the pieces went missing or broke so much so that St Joseph ended up three times bigger than the donkey. One year my sister Geraldine got pipe cleaners and made antlers for the family dog and put him into the crib. My father put up a sign staying ‘stop and shop at Connie’s moving crib!’”
The shop that John refers to was the family business for many years in Cork city. Born in the Bon Secours hospital, John Creedon was number 10 of 12 children. All but one sibling, Marie-Therese, who lost her battle with cancer four years ago, are still alive. His mother, Siobhan Blake, came from the Beara peninsula and his father, Connie-Pa Creedon, also hailed from West Cork. The family business would bring them to live and work in a corner grocer shop on Colbert Street at the foot of Patrick’s Hill.