Kay Doyle meets the man behind early morning radio on our national airwaves


There’s something very special – sacred almost – about the early morning. Regular witnesses to an autumn sunrise or the hazy beginnings of a summer’s day are exclusive observers of the real beauty of the waking hours.

Being a regular early riser to the sound of my phone alarm at 5am, I often feel part of a different world in those hours. The baker is already up, his handiwork travelling on delivery crates. The fishermen are heading out for an early catch. Truck and lorry drivers are on the road, already against the clock for their delivery schedule or sailing time from the nearest port. Workers in commuter towns are driving their daily sacrifice to having a good quality of life. Healthcare workers, the emergency services, office cleaners – already into a day’s work.

By 5am, there’s a flurry of activity around the country while most people are pulling their duvet a little tighter to their sleepy faces. It’s a very special thing to be a part of it. It’s an even more special thing to be the hand, and the voice, that guides the early risers through those sacred waking hours.

Since 2011, Shay Byrne has been behind the wheel of RTÉ’s early morning radio show Rising Time. The Artane man took over from Maxi, who had to leave after eleven years presenting the show due to illness.

“The first person to contact me was Maxi,” remembers Shay, after it was announced that he had got the audition on a one-year contact initially. “She gave me as much advice as I asked for. She didn’t preach anything, she congratulated me and said ‘it’s a great programme you’ll have a great time.’

“She told me ‘you’ll be going into people’s bedrooms, into their ear – their partner might be asleep beside them so they’re listening on ear buds, you’ll be in the car with people, there’ll be a mother nursing a baby, a baker baking bread. It’s a very delicate and sensitive time for people and she told me to understand that it’s a privelege.”

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