Talkback Thames TV who were starting Series 3 of their award winning Great British Train Journies.
Bella Lloyd assistant producer of the show had sent several emails to the site but seeing Talkback Thames in my inbox I despatched them to Junk, believing them to be just more adds for another internet provider. However on receiving a phone call from the library that someone wished to talk to me about the harbour, I gathered the ‘junk’ back and found that the Railway Section of the site had garnered the interest of the producer Jay Taylor and her crew who wished to visit Balbriggan harbour and include it in their series. A meeting was arranged between myself and Bella that her young crew would visit and gather any information I may have. I was to gather a couple of local fishermen and/or railway men who might prove interesting. What a job ..ever try to persuade somebody to go on live TV? A couple of suspects were arranged but some fell by the wayside as the day approached. I was finally left with two others and myself. To make a long story short the crew arrived and the stories.started. the footage was sent back to London and a funny story about the “Cup of Scald Train” which was brought up in jest when one of the crew asked what the most important train on the harbour was at present, proved to be popular. It was then I realised that they were not looking for History but rather good viewing stories. Eoin McGarry who had been a railway official in the local station in the early 1950’s gave them a tour of the town in his minibus and we were told that the powers that be would get back to us. The Cup of Scald gang did the job and after other arrangements were set up and reset and set again Michael Portillo, Bella Lloyd and the rest of the crew finally made it to the harbour at the end of August. This was live telly, none of us knew what questions Michael was going to ask and that we were to play it ‘off the cuff’, while on site. As the critics say things just developed. What a shambles?
If you want to see what happened tune in to BBC2 next week starting on Monday ...when the series comes to Ireland for 5 days.
Michael Portillo chatting on the harbour with from left, Pat Dowling,Eoin McGarry Alex MacKinnon and some of the young GRJ crew at work ie.Sophie and Tom
All photos courtesy of ‘Natch’ Mc Loughlin whom I had arranged to speak about the fishing and to tell some stories about his father and the Winkle Pickers. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune of looking too young and so I was drafted in as one of the old ‘codjers’. Some stories were told several times but never in the same way so what they make of them, the Lord only knows.
Having now seen the show I can understand why we had to make good pitch for the town as they said that they had a good programme on the Bog of Allen proceeded by the Viaduct in Drogheda and the Navan Zinc Ore Mines. Despite tours of the town and all its major, for the want of a better word “attractions”, and history I can justly say that only for the jovial manner in which they were made feel at home, the cup of scald gang and the friendliness of the fishermen with whom I had arranged for them to meet, they would have passed us by. One unfortunate aspect of the show to me was the fact that Ian McGarry who was there as the Railway historian and the only living character with a connection with both the harbour and railway, spoke for 95% of the time and related some wonderful memories and related history on camera but yet only received about 10 seconds of dialogue. I had given them a fair amount of history and photos courtesy of Joe Curtis on both subjects, and they had a copy of History for the Millennium which they had received from the Historical Society, however it was clear that they just wanted light entertainment, though I did hear Tom say to Sophie on their first visit while we were standing in the sunshine against the wall of the lighthouse that Michael would like the place ie. harbour since it had not changed much over the centuries.
www.balbriggan.net has a copy of the recording on Utube