‘You never know who you’re speaking to’.
I have heard this statement many times in life and in my career to date. Living in Northern Ireland with its small population it’s not uncommon when meeting someone for the first time that you work out that you have a friend or a friend of a friend in common. Being a broadcaster the statement takes on a whole other meaning. Being on air comes with a responsibility to not offend and to uphold the broadcasting code.
A month or so back I found myself at Glentoran Football Club in Belfast hosting a presentation being made to the clubs volunteers for their hard work and dedication. That day the prestigious ‘Queens Award’ for volunteering was being bestowed on the club by the Queens representative Sir Nigel Hamilton. This award is the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary services.
So why was I there? Well, I had received a call from the Vice Chairman of Glentoran a few weeks before, asking if I would come along. I love presenting events, I find it a great honour and the variety of occasions I have been involved in simply blows me away. So yes was my answer and of to the Oval I went.
On the day in question, I stood in front of all the clubs volunteers awaiting Sir Nigel to be welcomed into the room preceded by a piper. It was at that moment surrounded by those who dedicate their lives to Glentoran that it dawned on me that most people in the room would be asking the question ‘who’s your man?’ And why is ‘he’ here? I could imagine the responses. ‘He’s that bloke off the radio who would turn up at the opening of an envelope’. If that was the case one out of two answers would have been correct.
As the piper finished and I said my opening few words I decided to give some context. In truth my late Dad was born only a few streets away from the Oval, he played football from a very young age and when I showed an interest in the game as a 10 year old he brought me to see a match. Midfielder Billy Caskey became my new hero and my Dad even bought me a Glentoran scarf. A scarf I have to this day. So my words flowed as I reminisced hoping that on this huge occasion in some small way I could justify being there. I really enjoyed the experience and I left knowing that I had been part of an historic day at Glentoran FC.
A few weeks passed and out of the blue I received an email. An email from a gentleman who had watched the awards presentation on Facebook live. I didn’t even know it was being broadcast at the time. This gentleman introduced himself and said that he grew up with my Dad and they played football together on many different teams. In a few short paragraphs he was able to tell me about experiences they had shared as young men that I had heard mentioned growing up. I was totally taken aback. It was only as I tried to justify why as I was at the Oval that day that this gentlemen realised I was his old friends son. This week my Dad would have turned 70. I called this man and spent close to an hour hearing stories about my Dad, his ability as a footballer and his character at a time in his life when he hadn’t even met my Mum. It has brought a smile to my face and gave me warmth inside to know that my Dad is still remembered fondly and by someone who he wouldn’t have lay eyes on in years. To that gentleman, thank you for your email and for taking my call you’ll never know just how much it meant.
I’ll say it again, ‘you just never know who you’re speaking to’.