In August 1981 Brendan Bowyer was already an international superstar and I was 14 years old. I was on my school holidays and was working part time as a “DJ” at a local pirate radio station called “Raidió Luimní” which was headed by a man called John “The Man” Frawley, himself a former lead singer with the Monarchs Showband.
My father is known across Limerick, Clare and parts of Tipperary because of his involvement with Eamonn O’Connor’s touring Irish cabaret called “A Taste of Irish”. On Monday evenings in the summer of 1981 A Taste of Irish played to live audiences in the Royal George Hotel in Limerick. During the summer holidays it was always a treat to accompany dad to the show on the nights they were playing in Limerick. On one of the Monday nights I was at the show and Brendan Bowyer, on a trip back to Limerick from Las Vegas, came to see the show.
Brendan’s arrival was instantly noted and those in attendance whispered and pointed and some even approached him. Any person who has ever approached Brendan knows how personable and generous he was with his time. I saw my chance to grab a “scoop” as I was, for the holidays, presenting an afternoon programme on Raidió Luimní. At 14 one has no nerves and no fears so I approached Brendan and with outstretched hand said “I’m Ger Sweeney and I present a programme on a local radio station called Raidió Luimní and I was wondering if I got a tape recorder would you give me an interview”….or something like that. Brendan, or Mr. Bowyer, smiled and agreed.
I ran all the way home (no pun intended) from the Royal George Hotel to where I grew up in Farranshone and without permission took my older sister’s tape recorder. I then ran all the way back to the Royal George. Obviously, the cabaret was in full swing on my return so I waited the few hours for it to end but at this stage the evening had moved on and Brendan asked me if we could do the interview the following day. I saw another opportunity here and asked if he would come into the studio to do it – LIVE!!! I had never done a live interview so I was really jumping into the deep end here. It was agreed that Brendan Bowyer and I would meet outside the Royal George the following day at 1pm – we were going live at 2pm.
Bursting with excitement I headed into the radio station the following morning to have a word with John Frawley. John was on before me from 1pm with his lunchtime requests programme. He tended to stay on a little later some days and it could be 2.10 or 2.15 by the time I got going on occasion. I explained that he absolutely had to be off the air by 2pm today as Brendan Bowyer was coming in for an interview. John asked me how this had come about and when I explained how I got my “scoop” he smiled and told me that there was every likelihood that the international superstar Brendan Bowyer would probably have a lot more to be doing than to keep his promise with a young fella for an interview on a local radio station. Anyway, he did say that IF Brendan showed up for our appointment, he would be sure to make room at the appropriate time.
I think I was outside the Royal George at about 12.30pm buzzing with excitement. I’ve always been punctual and when 1 o’clock struck on Cannocks Clock I began to fret. I was determined to wait as long as possible!!
I wasn’t disappointed – the international superstar Brendan Bowyer turned up some time after 1.05pm and I was chuffed. There was no internet in those days so my research on Brendan Bowyer was limited to reading sleeve notes on the only album I could find from the Royal Showband. Brendan approached the interview as he would have approached any “grown up” interview and treated me like he would have treated Gay Byrne, Mike Murphy or any famous radio presenter you would care to mention. Brendan suggested we go for lunch – sure I had no money – maybe £1 in change but he convinced me we should have a chat and some lunch would be lovely.
The radio station was based in Lower Cecil Street in those days. A real shack of a building opposite the old Standard Garage where the studio rested on the second floor. There were two rooms on that floor – a kind of reception into the left at the top of the stairs and the studio was straight ahead on that landing. The studio floor dipped which resulted in records skipping if one walked too heavily and there was just enough room for two or maybe three people.
Next door to the radio station was Maguires pub and next to that was a restaurant, the name of which I have forgotten. That’s where I dined out on chips and a burger and a coke with Brendan Bowyer before our big interview. At about 1.55pm we headed upstairs to the studio.
There was a great look of surprise when I opened the studio door and presented this big man as my interviewee. John Frawley was thrilled. I knew he was and he gave the upcoming interview a great plug and made some reference to having to get off the air on time to facilitate the big interview.
There was one Royal Showband album in the station and that was “The Royal Showband Story” so that was the soundtrack to the interview. At the time we did not have the capacity to put callers on air so at once Brendan and I started talking about Limerick, his school days, the choir at the Redemptorists and the nights he gigged in the Jetland the memories came flooding back to listeners. The phone rang off the hook so I used to answer the phone, get a name and a particular memory from the caller, ask Brendan if he recalled it and let him speak to that. while he did that I took the next call. Manic!! Every so often I played another track from the Royal Showband.
I thought Brendan would stay with me for about 20 minutes but he stayed with me until the programme finished at 5pm. The international superstar gave this 14 year old novice THREE HOURS of his time on that August afternoon in 1981. I have a cassette recording of that interview somewhere. I must dig it out and re-live that afternoon that I have never forgotten, and will always cherish.
Again, to anyone who knew Brenan Bowyer well, this story of kindness and generosity on his part will come as no surprise. That kindness showed me the measure of the man that was Brendan Bowyer. Thankfully that was not my last meeting with Brendan. It was most likely 15 or 20 years before our paths crossed again and we worked together on a few projects that I really enjoyed. We were in contact up to a few years ago and it was always a great joy to hear his voice on the other end when I answered my phone.
I like to think we were friends and I know that my world is a far better one for having Brendan Bowyer in it. How fortunate I was to have had the nerve to ask for that interview back in 1981. May Brendan rest in peace and to his family I send my heartfelt condolences.