'So sad' | 

Charlie Bird's sorrow at thought of illness meaning end to relationship with his wife

"That’s what makes me so sad, I’ll be leaving this relationship"
Charlie Bird at the base of Croagh Patrick behind ahead of the Climb With Charlie fundraising event. Picture; Gerry Mooney.

Charlie Bird at the base of Croagh Patrick behind ahead of the Climb With Charlie fundraising event. Picture; Gerry Mooney.

Lynne Kelleher

Charlie Bird has spoken of his heartache at the thought of his terminal illness meaning an end to his relationship with his wife.

In the documentary Charlie Bird: Loud and Clear, to be broadcast on RTE1 on Monday, June 13, the veteran journalist reveals his wife, Claire, is the closest “human being” to him.

“That’s what makes me so sad, I’ll be leaving this relationship.”

In the feature-length programme, she talks about how she would go for what she jokily called ‘Bird-watching’ with her friends in the RTE canteen before he asked her out for a drink, and they clicked.

“I don’t know what it was, I was 37, Charlie was 57. My friends call him ‘the rugged ride’, so there you have it”, she says, smiling.

For his daughters, he feels great sorrow they will be losing their father.

“My two daughters are my life,” he told the cameras as he walked Croagh Patrick.

He also reflects on how his role as the nation’s chief news correspondent for decades took him away from his young family.

“All the way along there were critical times in their lives when I wasn’t at home.”

In the documentary, he looks back on the stories which mattered to him the most - the Stardust tragedy, the IRA ceasefires, the NIB scandal, the election of Mary Robinson as the first female President, and the Marriage Equality Referendum.

Incredibly, the nation’s most charismatic and tenacious of reporters tells of his terror when he first arrived at RTE in 1974 because his poor spelling.

“I failed my Inter (Cert), I failed my Leaving, I never to university, I couldn’t spell.

“The day I joined the RTE newsroom I was scared. I hid in my inside pocket, a pocket dictionary.

“I would walk out of the newsroom, go into a cubicle in the toilet and look for a word I couldn’t spell.”

The bond between the reporter and his RTE colleagues is clear in the documentary where he pores over his landmark reports.

In the opening minutes, behind-the-scenes footage shows Ryan Tubridy removing his microphone and hugging an overcome Charlie Bird in the back corridors of the Montrose studios after his first appearance on the Late Late Show to tell the nation of his Motor Neurone Disease.

For his legacy, he says: “My whole life was part of all that history. I believe that everybody has their time.

“I hope my legacy will be at least I tried to do things.”

It’s something the Irish public is acknowledging in the outpouring of support since his diagnosis. His wife, Claire smiles as she observes: “Everyone loves him. I can’t go anywhere without people giving him the biggest hug ever.”

Charlie Bird, Loud and Clear will be shown on RTE One on Monday 13th June, 9.35 pm


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