Aonghus McAnally, 67, is the son of the actors Ray McAnally and Ronnie Masterson, and is an actor himself. In the 1980s, he was a presenter on Anything Goes, the children’s television programme on RTÉ, and later presented shows such as The Lyrics Board. He was series producer of Liveline for seven years. He is one of the performers at concerts in aid of the Capuchin Day Centre for the Homeless, National Concert Hall, Dublin (Saturday, March 11); Cork Opera House (Sunday 12th); and UCH Limerick (16th).
I love Thin Lizzy. I had a couple of interactions with Phillo [Phil Lynott] when he was on Anything Goes in the 1980s. I remember coming home from doing the show on Saturday morning. I was making a cup of tea in the kitchen in Portmarnock and I heard the words that he had passed away. I cried my eyes out. I felt an awful sense of loss, that such a talent should be gone so young.
I was in London doing a programme on RTÉ at the Royal Albert Hall. I went along to interview the Furey Brothers. Finbar Furey played ‘The Lonesome Boatman’, starting off with the big deep whistle on his own. The Royal Albert Hall was packed to the rafters. I’ll never forget the reverberation of that whistle and him playing it, and that incredible sense of being Irish and being proud to be Irish, at a time during the Troubles. It was an incredible moment.
I remember seeing my dad play ‘The Bull’ McCabe in The Field at the Olympia Theatre in the mid 1960s. It was powerful and evocative of a different Ireland. Barry Cassin played the Bishop. When the Bishop came to give the sermon, where he tells the congregation that they have to own up if they know anything about the murder, and he finishes by blessing himself, the entire audience in the theatre blessed themselves as well. It was incredible. An iconic moment. The kind of thing that doesn’t exist anymore in Irish culture.
My father was terrifying as The Bull. He was so engrossed in that role. One of the few regrets in my life was that he never got to play the part in the movie. He was cast to play it, but he passed away. Richard Harris in fairness came in and was wonderful. One of me da’s great phrases was: “When I walk on a stage, I don’t care whether people love me or hate me, but by Jesus they will know I’m on that stage.” He had a couple of dentures. He took them out to give that ferocity playing “The Bull”. He put a photo of him as “The Bull”, with the hat on and the growl, on the door of the toilet downstairs in our house.
Death of a Salesman
My father’s portrayal of Willy Loman in a production of Death of a Salesman at the Gaiety Theatre in 1986 resonated with me, particularly because I’m the second son in our family. I identified with Happy, the second son in the show. It had Ian McElhinney, Garrett Keogh and Liz Davis in it as well. It was a powerful piece of work.
Walking with Ghosts, Gabriel Byrne’s one-man show, was astounding, one of the greatest theatre nights I’ve experienced. It was beautifully produced. The soundscape was magnificent – it was like being in a Pink Floyd concert because there was stuff behind your ears and above your head in the soundscape. He managed to bring 30, 40 characters to life at the same time. There was pathos, joy, humour. It was a tour de force.
An Cailín Ciúin
The Cailín Ciúin is beyond magnificent. It’s about a young girl in rural Ireland in the 1980s. She’s living in a slightly dysfunctional family. The father is abusive in a non-loving, distant way, a drinker, a waster. She’s sent to her auntie to be minded for the summer. Carrie Crowley is fantastic as the aunt. She takes her in and shows her love and affection and ordinary decency. I bawled my eyes out in the last scene. The pace, the look, the feel of it is wonderful.
The first show RTÉ put me on as a producer was Gay Byrne. I learned everything I know about broadcasting from a couple of his simple mantras. For example, and this is something I use in my own business dealings. I suggested an item for his show, say, an item on snooker. Somebody on the team said: “That’s a stupid idea.” Gay said: “Is it, really? Right. OK. What have you got that’s better?” If you’re gonna criticise something, have something else ready to roll. He was a consummate professional, always prepared, and a good listener.