Connect with us

Fitness

Bryan Dobson’s Honest Analysis Of RTÉ After 37 Years

Published

on

The first day of the rest of his life will almost certainly be hectic. It won’t be a major news event that has Bryan Dobson scrambling, however. There will be no urgent consultations with colleagues, no dashes in front of the cameras or behind a microphone.

Instead, one of the most famous figures in Irish news will start the bank holiday weekend with a toddler for company he and his wife Crea will have their two-anda-half-year-old grandson in their house in Portobello in Dublin this weekend.

‘He’s coming to stay overnight with us for the first time,’ beams the 63-year-old.

Bryan Dobson. Pic: RollingNews.ie

As new beginnings go, it is a charming start.

We meet in a room in the RTÉ TV building two days before his final shift. He could have stayed on until his 65th birthday, in October next year, and the announcement in January that he was choosing to go now saw the face of the news for generations of Irish viewers become the story himself.

Now, as he deals with the requests for interviews and poses for photographs, he is bashful but also grateful.

Bryan Dobson with his wife Crea. Pic: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin
Bryan Dobson with his wife Crea. Pic: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

‘I’d be quite happy with no fuss,’ he says. ‘I’d be quite happy to slip away quietly, but I’m also very gratified that people want to say nice things about me.

‘It’s nice to think people maybe appreciated what I did. It’s nice my colleagues say, “It was nice to work with you”. A few of them have said that. ‘I’ll take that as well, and it was nice to work with them.’

As has been repeatedly noted of late, he has lost almost four stone in weight and looks very well.

Bryan Dobson, Late Late Show, Retirement. Pic: RTÉ
Bryan Dobson on the Late Late Show. Pic: RTÉ

Dietary adjustments on the advice of his doctor, and with the help of a nutritionist, led to the dramatic change.

If he looks leaner, the voice is as sonorous and distinctive as it has been since his debut on the national broadcaster, as business correspondent, in 1987.

He signed off for the final time following the News at One yesterday, when the man affectionately known as ‘Dobbo’ became a private citizen after almost 40 years as a face and a voice recognised in most homes in the country.

RTÉ presenter Bryan Dobson. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
RTÉ presenter Bryan Dobson. Pic: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

He came to RTÉ after three years at BBC Radio Ulster. Before that, he took his first steps in journalism on Dublin’s pirate stations.

And journalism it was, as he confirms when you ask what he considered himself to be, a broadcaster or a journalist? ‘I’m a broadcast journalist,’ he replies. ‘I never worked in newspapers or magazines. I went straight into broadcasting, but I went straight into broadcast journalism.

‘I never had another career as a broadcaster as some people do, that come into this business from other parts of broadcasting. But from the get-go, I was a news person working in broadcasting. I’m a journalist who broadcasts.’

Bryan Dobson on the Late Late Show. Pic: RTÉ

Working as a business reporter at the national station in the 1980s brought intriguing challenges. The country was in a wretched state, and the prosperity that transformed Ireland in the 1990s was unimaginable.

‘I thought for about six months that I had made a terrible mistake, that I should have stayed in Belfast or gone off to London or something, because the country was in a terrible heap altogether,’ he recalls.

But he also has a distinct memory of covering a press conference called by an American company multinational investment of any stripe was news in the 1980s. Little did he, or anyone else, know the import of that day’s news, though.

Bryan Dobson. Pic: Kieran Harnett
Bryan Dobson. Pic: Kieran Harnett

‘I went out one day to a news conference called by the IDA, it was to announce an investment in Leixlip by a company called Intel,’ he recalls. ‘I don’t think I’d ever heard of them. They made microprocessors, and I’m not sure I knew what microprocessors were at the time.

‘But that was one of the catalysts for what became a wave of technological investments. They employ thousands of people now, an extraordinary success story.

‘That’s also the interesting thing about the job,’ he says, ‘it’s only sometimes in retrospect that you realise the significance of a story you’ve covered.’

Bryan Dobson, Late Late Show, Retirement. Pic: RTÉ
Bryan Dobson on the Late Late Show. Pic: RTÉ

Around that time, he felt a restlessness that led him to cast around for other opportunities. He applied for and was offered a job in London. But Crea was pregnant with their first child and was not keen on a move.

He settled at RTÉ, moving to anchor the Nine O’Clock News in 1991, and then on to Six One in 1996. There followed 21 years there, the role that established him as a public figure.

‘I always thought of myself as someone who was there doing a job,’ he reasons. ‘I wasn’t in search of celebrity, I wasn’t doing it because I wanted to be known or wanted to be a public figure, I was doing it because I love the job, I love journalism, I love reporting and I love being able to be part of a news operation that was breaking news for people and bringing people news they didn’t know before.’

18/12/2011
 TV news anchor, Bryan Dobson
at the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Immigrant Council of Ireland in Dublin City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin.
Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Bryan Dobson. Pic: Gareth Chaney/Collins Photos

He doesn’t hesitate when framing RTÉ’s status as a public service institution. It is, and must be, responsible to the public, he says. This connection with the Irish people helps to explain, he reckons, why the scandal that erupted last June continues to simmer.

‘Well they do pay my wages, and they do own it; you and I own it,’ he says. ‘That’s why I think the story has continued to get a lot of public attention, because this is an organisation that I think people care about, I hope they care about.

‘They care about it enough to be angry if it’s been mismanaged, and they want to know how it’s going to be sorted out, and they want people to be held to account.

Bryan Dobson with Sophie Dobson. Pic: VIP Ireland
Bryan Dobson with Sophie Dobson. Pic: VIP Ireland

‘I think that’s perfectly reasonable, that people would feel that sense of ownership, and that as owners they are entitled to expect a certain standard from RTÉ.’

He considers covering the first post-apartheid elections in South Africa as a career highlight. The Good Friday Agreement was momentous, too, ‘because Ireland was transformed. Nothing was the same after, it was transformed for the better.’

The economic crash of 2008 was another remarkable time. He was working on the Sunday in late November 2010 when the presence of the troika in the country was revealed.

Bryan Dobson at the Royal Television Society Republic of Ireland Awards at Liberty Hall Theatre, Dublin. Pic: Brian McEvoy
Bryan Dobson at the Royal Television Society Republic of Ireland Awards at Liberty Hall Theatre, Dublin. Pic: Brian McEvoy

The room we talk in is dark and softly lit, but outside May has emerged bright and uplifting. Retiring with the promise of weeks of long days stretching before him was deliberate.

‘My birthday falls in October, and if I’d left it to my actual retirement date, that would have been in October next year,’ he explains. ‘It was Michael Good, who was the former head of radio and news here, and who retired some years ago, and he gave me a bit of advice. He said, “Try and exit as the summer is coming in”.

‘Here we are, approaching the May Bank Holiday weekend, and finally the sun has come out and warmed up a little bit. The forecast isn’t bad for next week, so I’m claiming that as good timing.’

Sailing is a passion that he discovered in his mid-30s through his father-in-law. He and a friend have a boat and sail it out of Dun Laoghaire. They have competed in the round-Ireland race, and also sailed from La Rochelle in France back to Ireland. Dobson savours the ‘endless possibilities’ that he feels when sailing towards a horizon, and has ambitions for more adventures.

RTÉ News presenters Bryan Dobson (Six One News) and Eileen Dunne (Nine O'Clock News)
General Election 2016 coverage. Photo RollingNews.ie/RTE Press
Bryan Dobson and Eileen Dunne. Pic: RollingNews.ie

A cricket fan, he is also excited about being able to decide to go to a Test match when the mood takes him. Ireland are due to play Zimbabwe in Belfast in July, and it’s already in his thinking.

He resolutely rules out, though, a second full-time act in his working career. He is retiring young, but he is retiring.

‘I am retiring from full-time work, but I have other interests,’ he insists. ‘I’m involved in voluntary activities, and I’ll continue doing that.

03/02/2015. Colm Rapple Funeral. Pictured RTE Journalist Brian Dobson at St. Kevins Church on Harrington Street at the Funeral Mass of prominent financial journalist with Independent Newspapers and the Irish Press Group in the 1980s and early 1990s. Mr Colm Rapple who passed away in hospital in Dublin after a short illness this weekend. Photo: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland
Bryan Dobson. Pic: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

‘I’ve had a little uptick in inquiries, asking if I would be willing to chair a conference or speak at an event, or whatever it might be, and what you can do in that regard is quite limited in RTÉ, especially in news. It always has been, not just in the last year.

‘So I’ll have more freedom to take on some of those one-off opportunities and assignments, and if they come my way, I’ll certainly be looking into that. But no, I don’t want another job. I don’t want to go back on some other payroll.’

He has relished his working life, not just for its subject matter, but for the sense of self it provided him with too. The value of work has meant a great deal to him, quite apart from the work itself.

21/3/2016 Pictured at the launch of Cystic Fibrosis National Awareness Week and 65 Roses Day fundraising appeal is RTE's newsreader Bryan Dobson. From April 11 to 17, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, Ireland's national charity supporting people with cystic fibrosis, will be hosting Cystic Fibrosis National Awareness Week, incorporating its 65 Roses Day fundraising appeal on Friday April 15. Through sales of its purple rose emblem, the charity is hoping to raise eur 65,000 for much-needed services for people with cystic fibrosis, including transplant assessment, fertility treatment, support grants, counselling, research and new healthcare facilities. Photo: RollingNews.ie
Bryan Dobson. Pic: RollingNews.ie

‘It doesn’t matter what you do,’ he explains. ‘If you’re working, you’re part of some kind of a team, and you’re needed. If you don’t turn up, that job doesn’t get done. That’s very empowering. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of being a part of a team, that people depend on me as I depend on other people.’

Come Monday, will he tune in to the news? ‘Absolutely, yeah,’ he nods. ‘I might switch a bit between Lyric and Morning Ireland, am I allowed to say that? Because I love Marty [Whelan, who hosts the Lyric breakfast show], and I love Lyric.

‘I may indulge myself a little bit more in Lyric, and occasionally take a break from news and current affairs. But I’m not going to lose interest in news and politics, no way.’

Continue Reading