birds of wisdom | 

Charlie Bird says he’s had ‘a brilliant life’ in inspirational interview on Late Late Show

Charlie Bird pictured at Wicklow Council Buildings where he received the Freedom of the County. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Allison BrayIndependent.ie

Former RTE broadcaster Charlie Bird revealed he has come to terms with his diagnosis of motor neurone disease.

In a once-off interview from his Co Wicklow home on The Late Late Show alongside his wife Claire, he told host Ryan Tubridy that he has finally made peace with his grim diagnosis despite losing his voice now completely.

“The truth is, I have finally come to terms with my illness. In my head, I have come to terms fully with my situation. I understand there is no silver bullet and I have just got to get on with my life. In other words, I fully understand what is ahead of me,” he said using a special voice simulation app.

"If I am really lucky, I may survive another year. I can still walk and when people see me out walking, they tell me I am looking great, but the horrible truth of my MND with my voice now fully gone, my swallow has deteriorated and every time I sit down to eat, it is now a challenge to get through the meal without a coughing fit.

"And honestly, that is very scary. But Ryan, and as I said at the outset, I have come to terms with my MND, and I completely realise I am not the only person in this situation. There are lots of people that are also with terminal illnesses. My thoughts are always with Vicky Phelan, she is the most courageous person and look what she has done for the women of Ireland. So, I look up to her and her spirit to continue battling away in the situation she has been in for much longer than me.

"What keeps me going now? I have decided to continue to try and help people who are in dark places with my motto ‘to extend the hand of friendship to everyone’.”

Mr Bird said he has already planned his funeral and has chosen a favourite spot in the Aran Islands where his ashes will be buried, alongside his best friend Peadar.

“Peadar is the craic. So Peadar said when the two are there under the ground if they are having a fight, clattering the head off each other, at least they'll have a bit of craic…And he's quite happy to be there with Peadar,” added Claire.

Charlie revealed that he was very touched when he appeared on The Late Late Show last year when he famously announced he was going to climb Croagh Patrick despite his illness and fellow guest singer Daniel O’Donnell was so moved, he gave him his own set of rosary beads.

"I was completely shocked and stunned. In that moment, something happened between us. He told me later that he had been watching my interview and he was so moved by what I was saying, he said that something in his inner self moved him to give me his beads,” Charlie said.

He also said he was stunned to receive the Freedom of Wicklow last week.

“It came out of the blue for me. I was told about a month ago the decision of the council to award me the freedom of the county… I'm entitled to bring [his dog] Tiger into any pub in the county. No, hold on, I am joking. I am the third person to be awarded the Freedom. I was following in the footsteps of the great Daniel Day-Lewis and the great Katie Taylor. What was so moving about the occasion, my family and many of my close friends were there to watch the ceremony,” he said.

He added that he has no regrets over how his life has played out.

"When I was growing up, my father would say, man’s allotted span was three score years and ten. I remember that in later life. So, if you reach 70 you were lucky. Well, we all know now that everyone is living much longer, maybe into your eighties.

"Well, here I am at 73 and hopefully will live for another year or so, fingers crossed. But I don't feel cheated, I have been very fortunate in my career in broadcasting. I have travelled to many parts of the world in my amazing life I have travelled to the top and the bottom of the earth - yes, the North and the South Pole,” he said.

"When, I joined the national broadcaster, in my head, I felt I had won the lotto. So, I have had a brilliant life,” he said.

Meanwhile, a book he wrote about his illness called Time and Tide will be released next week and he will be signing copies alongside his beloved dog Tiger at the Eason bookshop in the Dundrum Town Centre on October 15.


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