The much-loved broadcaster landed a job as one of the DJs on RTE’s new Radio 2 pop station, now 2fm in 1979.
The former showband drummer with Dickie Rock, who went on to have a hugely successful career on both radio and TV, made the shock revelation at the beginning of today’s programme.
Ronan told his 220,000 listeners at the start of today’s show: “I’ve been on the radio here now for 146 years and with The Ronan Collins Show at lunchtime for I don’t know how many years and I wanted you to know that we will enjoy all the Christmas music for the next couple of weeks, but I will be doing the final Ronan Collins lunchtime show on RTE Radio 1 on Friday the 23rd of December. So Friday the 23rd of December I’ll be looking for me car keys and away out.”
“No, I’m not finishing today. There’s a few out there who might throw me out the door before that. No, the Friday before Christmas and we’ll just hand it over to somebody else. I’ve been doing it for long enough and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it and I think it’s right to stop while I’m still having a good time.”
Earlier, in a statement released by RTE, Ronan said: “I’ve been working on afternoon radio on RTÉ Radio 1 for nearly 38 years, plus six years before that on Radio 2, and nobody will ever know how grateful I have been for all the opportunities over the past 40 years and going forward with RTÉ.
" I often ask myself ‘how much longer can I continue to do this?,' and the answer always is ‘just keep going.’ New challenges await now on RTÉ in 2023, and I will continue to be on RTÉ Radio 1 with The Collins Collection on Bank Holidays.”
Peter Woods, Head of RTÉ Radio 1, said: “Ronan Collins is a legend on Irish radio. He has fronted the biggest music programme in the country and leaves it at the top of his game.
"He has had a career that is unlikely to be paralleled or exceeded at any time in the future - playing discs on national radio for 44 years. He will continue with Radio 1, with The Collins Collection, and we are so very grateful to him for the part he has played on this station and with the Ronan Collins Show in particular - long may he continue.”
The much-loved broadcaster, who turned 70 in October, left Dickie Rock’s band in 1979 and landed a job as one of the DJs on RTE’s new Radio 2 pop station, now 2fm.
On his 70th birthday, Ronan told sundayworld.com: “Am I going to slow down now that I’m 70? Slow down from what?
" I don’t feel that what I do every day is work. I just go on the radio and play a few records. I’ll do the radio as long as it’s right to do it. At the moment it’s still right to do it.
“Nothing stays the same and if changes are necessary I’m all for a bit of change. But at the moment that’s not even being talked about. My focus tomorrow morning will be going to do the radio programme.”
Ronan first got a taste of life in a showband when Rock head hunted him to take over drumming duties in his band back in the ‘70s.
Looking back on his career, Ronan said: “I knew Dickie to see when I was a young fella because I was from Phibsborough and Dickie was from across the bridge in Cabra,” he says.
“When Dickie walked down the street you knew there was somebody special walking down the street. Dickie strutted around and he dressed beautifully, he was a magnificent clothes horse.”
In those times there was a sound shop in Ronan’s area that the bands used to frequent.
“So you’d see Dickie and the other guys from the showbands,” he says. “I’d see them in their fancy suits and their fancy cars, Zodiacs and Triumph 2000s and Ford Zephyrs and the odd Merc …in the 1960s! God almighty, what a glamorous thing to see.
“So I always had an aspiration to go on the road. Out of the blue in 1976 I got a phone call from Dickie, ‘Would you be interested in coming to have a chat about joining the band.’
“As musicians in a band we were very well looked after by Dickie, we were well paid and it was exciting working with him, but I never really settled into the travelling.
"I couldn’t stick the road, so in 79 I reluctantly said to Dickie I can’t do this anymore, and I left. I went back to playing a few gigs and then fate intervened when I got a job in RTE the same year.”
Ronan said the key to his charmed and happy life was meeting his wife, Woody, who, he admits, turned him down twice before agreeing to go out with him.
“Woody worked in a record shop when I was in a band called The Others in the 1970s,” Ronan revealed as he recalled their early encounters.
“One day I asked her out and she said ‘No’. And I asked her out again and she said ‘No’. The third time I think she felt sorry for me and said ‘Yes’, which was just
as well because the third time was going to be the last time. I wasn’t going to ask her again.
“We’ve been constant companions ever since. We’re 44 years married and a couple of years together before that.”
The couple have three adult children. “They are still our children even though Jessica is over 40, Damien, who is in Dubai, is 35, and Lisa (40).
Woody always gave her husband the freedom and backing to pursue his passions, working in bands and on radio and TV.
“Woody understands the business,” Ronan says. “She was a singer in a band herself all those years ago.
" She’s lived the whole thing throughout my career. She’s always been there, understands it, knows what it’s like and wonders why I’m still doing it,” he laughs.
“But it’s what I do. It’s my passion. It’s never a chore.”
Ronan still performs live shows as a singer and recently sold out Dublin’s National Concert Hall with his tribute to Joe Dolan show