Remembering radio days as a nostalgic window into the past

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

There’s a big old beautiful Philips radio that take pride of place on a shelf in the kitchen, gazing down regally from on high. It has four knobs – for switching the station, fine tuning, increasing the volume and turning it on and off.

On the front it has the names of familiar and far-flung places side-by-side – RÉ Dublin and Cork is between Hamburg and France, just above BBC Third and BBC Light; BBC North is further to the right, as are Switzerland and Copenhagen.

It doesn’t matter that this is just a Medium Wave transmitter because it hasn’t actually worked since about 1978. And because most of the back of it is missing – not to mention a flex and a plug – it almost certainly never will again.

Even if it did, the sound would be that of someone talking from behind a curtain compared to the stereophonic surround audio you’d get from the cheapest pair of earphones attached to a bog-standard mobile phone.

The radio sits, mute and unfunctional, on a shelf because this was the big radio we had at home for all of our childhood years; it was the backdrop to our mornings, the only source of news and sport and – apart from a record player which, because it was in ‘the good room’, was rarely heard – music as well.

It was where Gay Byrne and Liam Nolan and Maurice O’Doherty lived, where Micheál O’Hehir brought All-Ireland finals to life in a way that television has never managed since.

The dial destinations alone conjured up images of places we never thought we’d see, because back then Dublin was as exotic as it got. Where even was Hilversum, other than three lines below Radio Éireann on the radio?

Somehow in the late seventies the radio gave up the ghost, by which stage the television – housed in a specially built cabinet in the other corner – dominated the kitchen anyway.

Not that we’d given up on radio; television didn’t start until the afternoon or early evening and it finished with the national anthem at a decent hour as well.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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