Cree­don hits the road less trav­elled for tele­vi­sion series

Irish Examiner - - News - Dan Buck­ley

It is three years since broad­caster John Cree­don took to the by­ways in a camper van to ex­plore the Wild At­lantic Way.

This time round he is tak­ing the road less trav­elled in a new TV series, weav­ing his way around the coun­try in a car that once be­longed to for­mer taoiseach Jack Lynch.

Driv­ing on three dif­fer­ent routes and avoid­ing the mo­tor­ways, John trav­els the scenic land­scapes and streetscapes, en­joy­ing the peo­ple, the places, and the craic along the way while un­earthing lit­tle-known sto­ries and lo­cal leg­ends.

“It’s based on an idea I had about 10 years ago,” says John. “I told RTÉ I would love to travel and do folk­lore along the way; ev­ery­thing from nice land­scapes, sto­ries, and cu­riosi­ties.”

Start­ing on July 22, on RTÉ 1, the first of a three-part series ex­plores the Cork to Dublin route be­fore the M8 mo­tor­way was built. It’s a route he knows well.

“I would have gone up and down that old road thou­sands of times, go­ing to All-Ire­lands, FA Cup fi­nals and to work at RTÉ. It was amaz­ing to see how much, and yet, how lit­tle has changed. The old plas­tic road sign in Kil­be­henny is still there, re­mind­ing me of when I would pass the county bounds and be greeted with “Wel­come to Cork — home of the Dix­ies.”

On this show John goes to Kil­worth Camp to re­live his days in the FCA, where the army puts his shoot­ing skills to the test.

“It brought me back to my time as a teenager in the Free Cloth­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, as we called it.”

In Cahir he meets the in­ter­net com­edy duo The Two John­nies. He then heads to Thurles to meet Leo Mo­ran of the Saw Doc­tors to rem­i­nisce about Féile 1990 and the com­ing of age of the mu­si­cal youth of Ire­land.

Jack’s star­tlingly white 1967 Mark II Cortina looks like it just came off the As­sem­bly yard at Ford’s plant in Cork. John is of a slightly older vin­tage but still in his prime and rarin’ to go, al­most as giddy as the old mo­tor.

“The sus­pen­sion is gas. The first day of se­ri­ous film­ing took sev­eral hours. The Cortina was lovely to sit in but when I fi­nally got out it was like get­ting off the ferry in France. It must be the old sus­pen­sion. Nowa­days cars have in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion which means you are kept level at all times but the Cortina sashays around cor­ners. It was very com­fort­able but when I got out, I was a bit wob­bly.”

He might have been even more wob­bly if it had not been for the help of two mem­bers of the West Cork Vin­tage Club who own Jack’s old Cortina and loaned John the car.

“The crew were Stephen and Fachtna. They were our con­stant com­pan­ions and they were fan­tas­tic.”

The tail-end of the Cork to Dublin run took him to Mon­dello Park where he tested his driv­ing skills with for­mer rally driver Rose­mary Smith. “Rose­mary is a gas char­ac­ter and a great ad­vert for old age. She is as fit as a fid­dle, good hu­moured and a very mod­ern woman. You couldn’t meet Rose­mary with­out fall­ing for her.”

He asked about her rally driv­ing days and what it was like be­ing a woman in a man’s world.

“She said that at the start they saw her as a nov­elty when she was be­ing pho­tographed over the bon­net of a car but she won their re­spect by win­ning races.”

In his series John Cree­don trav­els Ire­land’s land­scapes and streetscapes, and to cel­e­brate Mon­dello Park’s 50th year John tests his driv­ing skills in time trial against for­mer rally driver Rose­mary Smith.

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