John Creedon – A national treasure of Irish broadcasting

By John Fitzgerald

One of the many accolades bestowed on John Creedon throughout his never a dull moment radio and TV careers and his equally captivating journeys across Ireland’s ancient landscape.

The quintessential all-rounder, John, or “Creedo” as adoring fans call him, has acquired an unrivalled passion for his native language, and for Irish history and geography that calls to mind the great Donncha Ó Dúlaing of Highways and Byways fame. He combines his infectious devotion to all things Irish with the media savvy charisma of a Ryan Tubridy or Pat Kenny and the freewheeling communication skills of a latter-day seanchaí.

Listeners to his radios shows couldn’t pull themselves away from their transistors or     iPads once his golden voice rolled gently and lyrically across the airwaves. “Creedo’s” alluring tones held them in thrall.

And when he made his TV debut he lost none of his charm, or his uncanny ability to draw viewers closer to the screen in a kind of soothing transfixion…as if they were gathered around an open fireside to hear a yarn in former times.

His book That Place We Call Home, has won him a host of new admirers, drawn irresistibly to his exploration of those fascinating place names that he feels we may take for granted and that hold so many clues to our identity as a nation.

John first saw the light of day in 1958 in Cork, the tenth of twelve children. His mother hailed from Adrygole in the Beara peninsula and his father was a native of Inchigeelagh, Co Cork. His childhood was spent in a house located near the city centre, where his parents had a shop. From as far back as he can remember John wanted to work in radio.

The men and women whose disembodied voices echoed around the house were his idols. He yearned to join them in connecting with those vast unseen audiences.

After leaving school he nurtured a brief ambition, avidly encouraged by his mother, to become a lawyer. But this avenue was abruptly closed off for him when he narrowly missed out on the points requirement to study law.

Instead he undertook an arts degree course at UCC. His legions of fans were later relieved to hear of this turnabout, as many of them would prefer to see John on their TV screens or listen to him on radio than to be reading of yet another lawyer holding forth in the hallowed halls of justice.

A restless spirit, he moved from studying the arts to a position in Cork City library and at age twenty married his beloved Mona, who bore him four children. He did odd jobs, worked as a cleaner in Penneys, and shoveled cement on building sites.

Then came his first big break: ERI Radio, catering for a listenership in Munster, had started broadcasting. John joined the promising new outfit and was quickly promoted to Programme Director, a post he held until the mid 1980s when “pirate” radio gave way to regulated broadcasting. Having got a taste of radio he had no intention of leaving it behind and in 1987 he landed a job in RTE after entering a competition.

Following the mandatory interviews and auditions he was filling in for Pat Kenny on Drivetime. From then on his star shone and he hosted various shows on RTE Radio One, including the highly successful Late Date. Listeners loved his humane, sympathetic ‘man of the people’ presentational style and his natural ability to attune himself to their own way of thinking and in 1992 he scooped a well-deserved Jacob’s Award for his radio morning show Risin’ Time.

John experimented with comedy too, creating the hilarious character ‘Terence the Cork hairdresser’, who beguiled 2FM listeners with off-beat stories of life Leeside. He proved equally popular as a TV personality.

Viewers warmed to his gently combative approach to the challenges set by the reality TV series Fáilte Towers, which pitted thirteen celebrities against each other to see who would excel at running a hotel for sixteen days and nights. It was a no holds barred high pressure contest that brought pivotal character traits, talents and assorted life skills to the fore as they competed in the kitchens, offices and guest rooms.

John took the prize at the end of an exhausting and exceptionally demanding fortnight, winning funds for his designated charity, Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, and a place in the hearts of adoring viewers.

In 2011 he presented his first TV series. Creedon’s Retro Road Trip availed of a highly original idea to promote his vision of Ireland and its ever-changing land and streetscapes. He decided to retrace the exact route he followed back in 1969 during a family holiday. Along with his eleven brothers and sisters he had journeyed for two weeks across Ireland in their father’s Mercedes and a borrowed caravan.

He aimed to discover how Ireland had changed since that halcyon childhood adventure. The resulting programmes were hugely entertaining and educational as John stopped off at the various locations to see how towns and villages had evolved over the decades, and to chat with the locals. The following year his Creedon’s Cities series featured down to earth explorations of life and historical curios in the major urban centres of Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Galway.

In 2015 John introduced TV viewers to the wonders of their geographical, historical and tourist heritage and hospitality attractions via Creedon’s Wild Atlantic Way, a three-part series focusing on one of the most stunning and universally acclaimed tourism routes in Western Europe.

This time he traveled in his 1960s Volkswagen campervan that he had named Seanvan, in honour of the Gaelic song An tSean Bhean Bocht. He followed up these productions with others, including Creedon’s Epic East (2016), and Creedon’s Road Less Travelled (2018). John has also served as a judge on TV talent programmes such as RTE One’s, The All Ireland Talent Show and TG4’s Glór Tíre.

Throughout his long broadcasting career John has displayed his love for the Irish language and never lost an opportunity to champion its cause. His Gaeilgeoir zeal is evident again in his remarkable book, published earlier this year.

In That Place We Call Home he decodes the meanings behind some of the place names linked to Ireland’s estimated 63,000 townlands. He unravels wondrous tales of Irish history, folklore and archeology, as he takes us down meandering  pathways into our enchanting and tumultuous Celtic past, elucidating along the way many curious aspects of our proud Gaelic heritage.

Due to lockdown, John has been spending more time at his County Cork home in recent months with Mairead and his family, pursuing cherished hobbies which include photography and his golden record collection of albums ranging from Bruce Springsteen and the Beetles to Nina Simone and Van Morrison. Thankfully, the Coronavirus has not kept “Creedo” off the air, so we can continue to hear and see the work of this super talented broadcaster.

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