Maxi chats to the veteran broadcaster about making the switch to RTÉ Gold, departed friends and what life is like on the other side of seventy.
‘‘I’ve grown older but I have never grown up.”
Ronan Collins, broadcaster and musician, is taking time to chat. He has just signed off from his programme on RTÉ Gold. Ronan, born in Phibsboro in Dublin, began his career as a legitimate broadcaster on Radio 2 RTÉ, which is now 2FM. Before that he worked as a drummer with touring bands, giving him a love for showbands that is still burning brightly to this day.
He has been on radio and television ever since, making the change to broadcasting on Radio One in 1985, and to RTÉ Gold in 2023.
I have known Ronan and his lovely wife, Woody, since meeting them the week they returned from their honeymoon over 46 years ago. I didn’t know it then but ahead of me was a lasting friendship, the valuable advice of a mentor and a kind-hearted colleague who was always willing to share a story and a laugh with a fellow traveller on the road of life.
How are you dealing with life, since leaving lunchtime music programme on Radio 1 in December ‘22?
“Time, and turning seventy, jumped up on me and I am often asked why I left a primetime programme that had great figures and was still hugely enjoyable to do, but I see now that I can put work into other things.
‘‘My touring theatre show is sold out, and I now look back and witness the change of direction I made has been fantastic, and it still never feels like work. I don’t think I’ll bother growing up now!
“I suppose I am sorry I didn’t change sooner but I was reluctant. It’s not about money anymore, or being famous, or being accepted or recognised; now it’s about how I feel about life. I am pleased with the decision I made to give my life a different rhythm. I now have time to spend with my wife, my family and my grandchildren especially.”
You are sitting in RTÉ now, in the building so full of great memories, and the legacy of historic characters, I can’t help but ask about departed friends. Bill O’Donovan, the former head of 2FM, who had show business flowing through his veins, Gay Byrne and Larry Gogan all come to mind when the soundproof studio doors close behind you. Do you feel reflective in the quiet of the moment?
“When people pass away I get reflective but not maudlin. Michael Carwood, journalist and my buddy from the band ‘The Others’ is also in my thoughts. I am still in constant touch with his widow, Cathy. Bill O’Donovan, my late producer, gave me the best years. He produced me when I presented the breakfast programme, which I did for five years. He was the man for planting an idea and letting you run with it. I never made a decision in my career without consulting him.
‘‘One of the reasons I stepped back from the daytime programme was, that when Larry Gogan died, the heart of the place was gone. I was lucky to be able to forge a great bond with him; he was such a great part of my working life and a great part of the decision to change direction in my life. Having Larry Gogan as my friend was a great joy to me. Gay of course was a huge influence on all of us.’’
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own