The Waterford-born singer and entertainer, who died in 2015, talked about his Christmas TV specials, festive hit recordings and seasonal memories to Colm Keane in a 1996 interview
It was once said that the biggest nightmare facing British TV executives was that Val Doonican would get laryngitis in the run-up to Christmas. He was that important in their schedules. From the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, his Christmas Eve and Boxing Day specials dominated the festive season. Audiences of up to 20 million snuggled up on their sofas to watch him.
Few entertainers left their mark on Christmas quite like the Waterford-born singer and TV presenter.
Set in a winter wonderland of candles and choirs, snowflakes and Christmas trees, sleigh bells and open fires, his shows oozed festive cheer. Dressed in his trademark sweaters, he was the epitome of seasonal cosiness. Audiences loved him. “What would cross-channel telly have done without Val this Christmas?” an Irish TV critic once asked. “Close down, I suppose!”
Ageless, affable and radiating charm, Val’s Christmas shows battled stiff opposition over the years. Morecambe and Wise, Perry Como, Dave Allen, Tommy Cooper, Mike Yarwood and Danny La Rue were among his competitors. Cilla Black’s Christmas Night with the Stars was another. There were seasonal editions of Top of the Pops, and the mischievous Basil Brush dominated Christmas mornings. Of all of them, the crooner with the rocking chair and cuddly jumpers is one of the most fondly remembered.