By Rosemary McDermott
During the long months of the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown, I spent more time than usual watching television. As I scrolled through the broad selection of programmes on a wide range of channels, I recalled a time when UTV, RTÉ and BBC were the few stations available in my rural Co Tyrone home.
I can vividly remember my pre-school days in the early 1960s. At mid-morning, mammy would switch on the old black and white television for the children’s programme, Watch with Mother. After she’d adjusted the aerial on top of the set, the snowy picture became clear as the show’s signature flower unfolded on the screen.
I jumped with joy when Andy Pandy emerged from the wicker basket where he lived. Dressed in a blue and white striped romper suit, he was joined by his friends, Teddy and Looby Loo. As their fun-filled antics came to an end, they’d begin to sing, Time to go home, time to go home, Andy is waving goodbye and they’d all disappear into the basket and the lid closed down.
As a primary school pupil, I’d be enthralled as the Romper Room hostess, Miss Adrienne, led a group of children in a variety of activities. My heart skipping a beat, as she began reciting the names of children that she could see in her magic mirror – I hoped – in vain – that she would mention me!
As the years went by, Crackerjack and Blue Peter provided us with education and entertainment. Although my attempts at recreating the items demonstrated in the arts and crafts section or trying to guess the answers to quiz questions was great fun, they wouldn’t have gained me the much-desired Crackerjack Pencil or the Blue Peter Badge.
By the end of the 1960s, the cast of Ireland’s rural soap, The Riordans, had become household names. My mother often voiced her amazement at the amount of gossip Minnie Brennan could gather and spread in the fictional townland of Leestown, Co Kilkenny.
She’d be slightly miffed when daddy would remind her that Minnie was a character playing a role and not a real-life gossip.