Val Doonican’s marvellous career

One of the nicest things about my job is meeting people I’ve had the pleasure of watching on television or admiring on screen. I’m not a hero-worshipper, I wouldn’t even count myself as a fan of anyone in particular, but every so often I’m asked to interview someone who has become a legend in his or her own lifetime. This month it was the gentle, warm, funny and self-deprecating Val Doonican. The interview will appear in Berkshire Life magazine in the new year, but having heard him today on Libby Purves’s Radio 4 show Midweek, I couldn’t resist mentioning here that I’ve interviewed him too and letting you know how it felt. I can’t let you see the article, but this was my experience of meeting him at his Berkshire home.

Ever since Val Doonican’s name was mentioned as a future interviewee I’ve had his lyrics spinning in my head and memories of favourite childhood songs. His TV show, for those who never had the pleasure of watching it, and there are many of us who did, used to pull in an amazing 19 million viewers a week. That’s the equivalent of an X-Factor Final week-in and week-out, in an era when fewer of us had televisions and most of us knew what the off switch was for. Charming but never smarmy, gentle but never boring, funny but never loud – that was the Val Doonican we thought we knew. It turns out, on meeting him, that’s how he is in real life. How lovely not to have your childhood memories shattered. But then Val knows all about having childhood snatched away…


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