What was the high­light of Christ­mas week TV?


Sun­day: PRE- CHRIST­MAS drinks are slid­ing down a treat when the sub­ject of Pat Gar­rett and Billy the Kid spikes the con­ver­sa­tion. One tip­pler shares his thoughts on James Coburn's per­for­mance in the film with the rest of us, be­fore an­other stops him in his tracks. ‘Didn't James Coburn used to read the news on RTE?' she asks. ‘No, that was Don,' I re­mind her. Cue howls of laugh­ter. The mer­ri­ment of the fes­tive sea­son has elec­tri­fied the air. Tues­day/Wed­nes­day: In fair­ness to RTE they ticked most of the boxes when it came to the TV sched­ule for Christ­mas Day; the movies were well thought through. I usu­ally en­joy Mrs Brown's Boys but on this big oc­ca­sion Downton Abbey de­liv­ered in spades. Nei­ther was the TV high­light over Christ­mas week, how­ever, that ac­co­lade is awarded to The Girl, aired on BBC 2 on St. Stephen's night.

The made-for-TV film is based on in­ter­views with ac­tress Tippi He­dren (su­perbly played by Si­enna Miller, pic­tured) and cast mem­bers from The Birds and Marnie, from which it is re­vealed how one of the great­est direc­tors of all time, Al­fred Hitch­cock, made her life a mis­ery. His ob­ses­sion with her ran deeply and fiercely. Hav­ing viewed this dis­turb­ing in­sight into his mind, it be­comes clear why Hitch­cock re­quested that no one was to dig into his pri­vate life once death had be­come him. On this ev­i­dence the portly Bri­ton has plenty of other skele­tons rat­tling about in his closet, none of which can be dis­missed as props.

If schooldays are the best days of our lives then thou­sands of stu­dents that have walked the cor­ri­dors of the FCJ Con­vent in Bun­clody will tes­tify that their English teacher, Pat Con­naughton, was the con­jurer of mag­i­cal mem­o­ries that they will cher­ish for a life­time.

It was with ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion that the news of Pat's death broke on Fri­day night, prompt­ing a week­end of old school pals re­con­nect­ing to re­call what this out­stand­ing man had done for them dur­ing their teenage years.

As over­seer of so many of the school's plays and mu­si­cals he was a bea­con of cre­ativ­ity in a fog of academia, al­low­ing those suited to the stage an op­por­tu­nity to show­case tal­ents that very of­ten be­came sub­merged be­neath the stan­dard text­book. On a per­sonal level I think the fol­low­ing story gives an ex­am­ple of Pat's gen­er­ous and car­ing na­ture. The af­ter­noon be­fore I sat the Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate English pa­per he called me to one side and asked if I could pop over to his house later that evening; it turned out that he was wor­ried I hadn't learned enough quotes to see me safely through the exam. And he was right.

Self­lessly, he spent hours go­ing through what he thought would ap­pear on the fol­low­ing day’s pa­per and true to his word, events un­folded as he pre­dicted. And what did he want for go­ing above and be­yond his duty in the role of teacher? Noth­ing, other than the sat­is­fac­tion of see­ing an­other stu­dent suc­ceed. Rest in peace Pat, a great teacher and friend. He will be sadly missed.

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