Feelgood radio at its finest
Listening to the three different accounts on Bowman Sunday Morning (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday 8.10am) of Ronnie Delany running the 1,500m race on 1 December 1956 in the Melbourne Olympics was good for the spirit.
The first account was from an unenthusiastic Australian race commentator who hardly mentioned Delany.
The second was the BBC version which was heard by people all over the country who tuned into their radios in the pre-dawn silence of grim 1950s Ireland, holding their breaths for the epic moment of an Irish gold medal in athletics.
The third version was Delany on Tonight with Vincent Browne giving a most astute, honest account of his momentous three-minute-41-second victory.
It was the first Olympics after the breaking of the four-minute mile. Delany describes how he was terrified at the start line, how “you pray a lot to God for the ability to perform to the best of your ability, you pray to your own saints”. Delany prayed to Mary and had his rosary beads and holy water with him, not on his person but in his kit bag.
The first two laps were fast and comfortable. There were 12 runners in a six-yard space. The favourite, John Landy, was up front. The bell-ringer forgot to ring the last lap bell.
Delany held off but, with 80 yards and three runners to go, he “kicked” – he made his spurt – and then: “I knew, I knew I was going to win the Olympics... You physically feel so strong and there's no one going to pass you. Five metres from the tape, you throw your arms up. I felt instantly I had to say thank you to God, so I knelt down and said a prayer in front of 120,000 people.
“It was so natural for me to do that, it was so instinctive. I said, “I thank God for this gift, for winning this Olympics, for achieving it'.”
Such material makes Bowman's rummaging through the RTÉ archives worth listening to.
The first half of the programme was material on Peter Kennedy, one of Ireland's great recorders of traditional music. His fascinating accounts of chasing music-playing Travellers around the Blue Stack mountains and rural Ireland trying to record their Irish ballads on tin whistles and fiddles bring listeners in 2006 to another era, worth remembering.
Another Sunday radio programme that brings listeners back in time is O'Brien On Song (RTÉ Radio 1, Sunday, 7.02pm). Jack O'Brien's voice caresses as much as the music. He assumes all listeners have his knowledge of music, he tells the stories of the songs, he speaks about the singers, writers and players as if they were household names.
He introduces beguiling, natural, effortless sopranos, provides glimpses into the salons of London and the soirées of the nobility in the late 19th century, worships duets from 1700 and encourages listeners to sit back and relish arias from Don Giovanni by Mozart. It is faultless, soothing, beautiful radio.
Both programmes provide that rare treat of feelgood, goosebump radio that should be available on loop as a tonic.