RTE Radio’s Sunday Miscellany has been part of my life’s soundtrack for 20 years or so
I was nervous on Sunday in a way I hadn’t been for a long time.
RTE Radio’s Sunday Miscellany has been part of my life’s soundtrack for 20 years or so. It accompanied me on many morning drives to football matches all over Leitrim and Ireland.
I would regularly arrive to games with its touching tales and soothing music reverberating around my head. It was usually in stark contrast to some of the noise I would hear blasting from the stereos of my team mates’ or opponents’ as they opened their car doors.
You might not consider it usual pre-match motivational fodder but I found it distracted me from the game and allowed me arrive in a relaxed state of mind.
I had often thought of submitting a piece, but never did. Until this summer.
I heard nothing and expected that was that. Then, on a particularly frantic week in September when my head was frazzled from dealing with a raft of critical incidents that had beset some of our clubs around the country, I checked my voicemails while taking a walk at lunchtime to try and clear my head.
“Hello Colin, this is Sarah Binchey, producer of Sunday Miscellany,” said a gentle voice from the world of mobile phone messages.
“You submitted a piece a few weeks ago. We are recording a live show in Ballyshannon on Sunday, October 6, as part of the Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Arts Festival, and we were hoping you would be available to be one of the contributors.”
I won’t profess any false modesty; the message brought a broad smile to my face. I checked my calendar – the date would work. I rang Sarah back and that was that.
In the intervening weeks I hadn’t time to think about the show as I was busy planning the GAA’s annual Healthy Club Conference that took place in Croke Park on Saturday.
We hosted almost 400 delegates from across Ireland – including representation from Glencar Manorhamilton and Aughnasheelin (both clubs being amongst the 84 clubs that received official recognition as ‘Healthy Clubs’ having completed the 18 month journey involved).
Orla O’Brien of Carrigallen GAA contributed handsomely to the workshop on physical activity outlining the club’s experience of the Ireland Lights Up initiative run in partnership with Operation Transformation and Get Ireland Walking. (The St Patrick’s club in Dromahair was also represented – they are planning a wellbeing week in November which I will touch upon again in another column closer to the date).
The end of the conference on Saturday marked the conclusion of several busy weeks planning and execution and I was both elated and exhausted.
Then it dawned on me – I hadn’t once read the piece I had submitted all those months ago. But I didn’t have the energy or inclination to get stuck into it Saturday night either.
So I printed it out and figured I’d get some time on Sunday morning.
There was an impressive line-up of contributors for the live broadcast of Sunday Miscellany listed on the website of the Abbey Arts Centre.
I would join Gerard Beirne, Denise Blake, Olive Travers, Brian Leyden, Louise Kennedy, Patrick Hull, and Monica Corish (many of whom are regular contributors) in reading their works.
An eclectic selection of music from Hatchlings, Tara Connaghan, Sarah E Cullen, Conor and Michael Murray and Ellie Nic Fhionnghaile bridged such genres as traditional Irish music and song to jazz, folk, and indie.
And then there was Little John Nee. Self-proclaimed as Donegal’s first and only punk in the 1970s, Nee was born in Glasgow and is one of my favourite Irish performers. I’m reluctant to box him in any particular category other than to say he observes and documents Irish life in a way few others can.
I was fortunate enough to discover his work and interview him while working as a journalist with the Donegal News in the mid Noughties.
His show ‘The Mental’ has stayed with me ever since. John recalled our interview and said he still uses my description of that show on his website, which meant a lot.
John stole the show on Sunday and if you ever get the chance to see him live, take it.
I had stopped in Cavan on my way from Dublin on Sunday morning for something to eat and read my script, which upon revisiting required some minor changes and edits to better suit the spoken word.
As we gathered for a sound-check and ran through the running order, I was listed to close the show. The quality of all those who went before me was intimidating.
This was the first time I would read something I had written to an audience (other than a couple of eulogies) – a very different experience to penning a column and sending it off via email to an editor.
As my turn arrived the butterflies were dancing in my stomach and my knees were still dancing to the previous tune even though Ellie and Tara had returned to their seats beside me.
My piece touches on the passing of my brother Gordon in 2002, and even though 17 years after his death I think of him daily and speak of him often, I expected that addressing the topic publicly might prove emotional. I wasn’t wrong.
The mere mention of his name in the last paragraph brought with it a swell of emotion from the core of my being and caused me to stumble.
I regained my centre with the help of a few deep breaths, and managed to finish my tale.