With Mary Sheerin
Don Cockburn (1930-2017) was born in Dublin and was an actor for many years, mainly with the Gate Theatre when it was run by Hilton Edwards and Micháel Mac Liammóir. He had a wonderful voice with perfect diction so it wasn’t too surprising that he landed himself a part-time job in Radio Éireann as a newsreader in 1958.
Mr Cockburn remained with our national broadcaster for over thirty years. Shortly after RTÉ Television arrived, Cockburn transferred over to the new television station. He was a natural for TV and anchored the main evening news.
In those years, it was at 9 pm in the evenings. For those who remember the 1970’s and 1980’s the news was often worrying with the troubles in Northern Ireland and the spill over into the Republic. However, viewers found Cockburn’s presence and his silken tones reassuring.
Following his death there were many tributes paid to him by prominent people, but the tweets that surfaced were both interesting and amusing. For example, one man said that it was due to Cockburn that he developed an interest in current affairs and because of the way that Cockburn delivered the news he believed every word he said.
Another tweet tells us that as a child, and because television was so new to us in Ireland, she thought he was watching everyone and so the child of that bygone era, always made a point of sitting up straight and listening to every word said in case Mr Cockburn might leap from the screen and ‘give out to her’.
Whilst another viewer (now a very elderly lady) said she used dress herself up and put a vase of flowers beside the TV especially for Mr Cockburn! She too was sure that he could see her …
You see, long before ‘fake news’ entered our vocabulary, Don had worked out, in his own quiet way, that news was inseparable from the credibility of the newscaster.
Don was a deeply religious man who loved his family, friends, radio and poetry. He was also an environmentalist long before any of us became aware of our environment and some say that he actually invented the ‘cycle to work scheme’.
He was a great man for the bicycle and would cycle into Montrose from his home in Mount Merrion. Sometimes, he cycled standing up to save the seat of his ‘good trousers’!
However, on the odd occasion that he would use his car he would push it away from his home at 5.00 am in the morning so as not to disturb the neighbours. He maintained it also saved the battery!