Since 1974 children and adults have been snuggling up together on the sofa to absorb the unbridled joy The Late Late Toy Show brings, writes JOHN SCALLY


Christmas officially begins every year in Ireland with the Late Late Toy Show. As a boy it was my most cherished day apart from Christmas Day. Those mornings of my favourite programme ever I woke early, long before the first faint flickers of light lit up the specks of frost on the hard ground. I felt a peculiar mixture of joy and anticipation.
The butterflies were going mad in my stomach as we sat in front of the television that night.

The programme was exuberant, extravagant, unpredictable; like a toboggan run, dangerous and exhilarating. I began watching with a yelp of unrestrained joy.

The audience went wild and my heart was beating like the sails of a mill on a gale.
Although it was a phenomenal success in large measure due to the efforts of Gay Byrne the irony is that Gaybo almost killed the programme before it began.

In 1974, the Late Late Show’s researcher Pan Collins was shopping in Stillorgan village when she was spellbound by the windows of Nimble Fingers toy shop lit up before her. A few days later Pan pitched an idea to her boss, producer and presenter Gay Byrne to feature a segment about children’s toys, just in time for Christmas. Gay was not impressed and turned it down.

However, Pan was not defeated. Instead of accepting defeat she went to Maura Connolly. Maura was Gay’s right-hand woman for 30 years; she acted as special assistant, programme executive, artist liaison officer, and all-round Late Late Show foundation stone. Maura was the person who coined the phrase ‘Aaand There’s One for Everybody in the Audience’ and joined Gay in the RTÉ canteen before each programme for his ritual plate of egg and chips.
She said to Gay, “Look, what does Christmas mean? It is really a huge time for children and parents of children, and I think it would be a lovely idea, and I support Pam.” Second time around, Gaybo was persuaded and a television juggernaut was born.

Continue reading in this year’s Christmas Annual