Pictured are Donncha O Dulaing and retired Ireland’s Own editor, Phil Murphy
By Gerry Breen
In the course of his long career in radio and television, Donncha Ó Dúlaing has presented many extraordinary stories from ordinary people as well as interviewing a host of celebrities from Mick Jagger to Elmer Bernstein, the composer of the music for the film The Magnificent Seven, and from author Kingsley Amis to comedian Arthur Askey.
Indeed, he had the distinction of getting exclusive interviews with Saint John Paul II, President Éamon de Valera, Edna O’Brien and Rosie Hackett. As well as being a busy broadcaster, Donncha found time to lead walks across Ireland, the U.K., France, the U.S. and the Middle East to raise money for good causes. In this book, he remembers the people and events that have shaped his life and writes about them with warmth and affection.
Donncha grew up in Doneraile, Co. Cork and he remembers those days as happy, simple uncomplicated days bounded by the Church, school, holidays, and fishing for pinkeens and collies in the Awbeg, hunting for bees and the occasional wasp, only to release them again in the evening when it was felt it was time for them to go about their business.
In his view, the Church filled the vacuum left by the nobility. The priests expected people to doff their caps, bend their knees and step aside to make way for them, just as the Lords of the big house had done before. ‘I remember vividly’, he recalls, ‘when a cinema opened in the town. It almost caused a schism in our local community. The Canon railed against this new-fangled abomination from the altar. He promised that with the cinema, ‘sin’ was arriving in Doneraile.
The congregation was anxious to sample this lascivious temptation, but on the other hand, no one wanted to offend the Canon.
The unfortunate proprietor of the hall had a dreadful few days. Still, it was all right in the end. We all went to the pictures, three nights running, and a new medium, if not a message, had arrived in Doneraile.’
Donncha, the master storyteller, has lots of good stories to tell about Doneraile and its celebrated novelists Elizabeth Bowen and Canon Patrick Sheehan, along with many less famous inhabitants ‘who strode colossal in their knowledge and dark suits on Mass morning, Sunday.’ ‘Family life,’ he remembers, ‘was homely and warm.
My father listened to the radio, a Philips set, in the morning as he shaved. My mother baked bread and apple tarts, filling the house with rich smells that stimulated the digestive juices. A whiff of baking from a neighbour’s house now transports me back through the years to those happy childhood times.’ But then, all of a sudden, the idyll that was Doneraile came to an end. It was December, 1943, and he was ten years old.
His father, who was a member of the Garda Síochána, was told he was being transferred to Charleville, some twelve miles away. The move was swift and immediate.