WOMAN ON THE VERGE: Paws for a trip down memory lane!

May 23rd, 2023 3:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind ambassador Roy Keane with Guide Dogs, and siblings, Heidi, Hugo and Hope ahead of the charity’s fundraiser. Below left: Bosco wasn’t quite as cute or entertaining, but did make me feel all nostalgic. (Roy photo: John Allen)

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A school history project reintroduced me to RTÉ’s answer to childrens’ entertainment in the 70s and 80s, none other than Bosco himself. It was a novelty, for a while, until I wanted to put him back in his box

• WHEN my daughter was small she went through a big Peppa Pig phase. It was intense. Intensely annoying. Next came the Paw Patrol phase, then it was My Little Ponies (that coincided with the first lockdown, which made it extra irritating, even a bit trippy), and more recently it was The Thundermans (I’m still working on restoring her West Cork accent). Nothing there, of course, that hasn’t been replicated in households the world over. One phase I wasn’t expecting though was a Bosco one. Remember that high-pitched, red-haired little chap who lived a box, and who was RTÉ’s answer to children’s entertainment in the 70s and 80s? Him.

Bosco wasn’t quite as cute or entertaining, but did make me feel all nostalgic.


As part of a history project her class were asked to bring in items from home from yesteryear and a quick rummage through my artefacts (also known as the ‘junk drawer’) turned up a Bosco cassette tape which ticked the box nicely. I hadn’t given him a thought in years so I was possibly a bit over enthusiastic in describing him to my daughter and might have talked him up … a lot. He was so funny! A brilliant singer! And educational too – great at the Irish, I told her! Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all the rest. Next day her class were treated to a little snippet from an episode in class and since then we’ve been hooked – both of us! Helpfully (well, it depends what way you look at it), there seems to be endless episodes on YouTube and my god, watching some of them, took me right back. 

• I remember when Bosco was pretty much the only kids’ programme on TV. That was when there were only two channels (and no remote control, which blew my child’s mind, and mine too in hindsight). Possibly to make up for that, it was shown twice a day – in the morning (maybe to give the mums a chance to listen to Uncle Gaybo in peace), and again after lunch (well, it would have been your dinner back then). With my two older sisters in school, I’d catch the morning show, and be a step ahead of them for the make-and-do and sing-alongs for the second showing. That’s probably why it all looked and sounded so familiar on our little Bosco marathon over the weekend. It launched in 1979 so four decades later it was obviously a bit dated, but I was still quite impressed at the standard of the production. The presenters were fab: Mary and Frank (Twomey, Cork actor); Marian (Richardson who used to present Playback on RTÉ radio one for years) and Philip and co. Singing abilityclearly wasn’t a pre-requisite to getting the gig, but ability to rock a pair of dungarees, and cut things out without losing a finger, were!

• A few things did seem a little out of kilter, namely ‘The Magic Door’ segment. Remember that? One of the presenters would say ‘knock, knock open wide’ and take us to ‘the other side.’ It used to be my favourite slot but through a 2023 lens, it was just plain reckless. One we saw was entirely devoted to a toddler, he couldn’t have been more than two, running around an enclosure on his own, feeding some deer with a bottle, with very ominous classical music playing in the background. Did I mention that he was alone? Let’s just say it wouldn’t happen in this era of ‘helicopter parenting!’ Another one showed two kids fishing off rocks (on their own), again with a background of really dramatic music. We were a bit shook from it. Nothing the gas tongue twisters couldn’t sort though, and who remembers mála creatures The Plonsters and Faherty’s Garden? What will we say about them … original? The biggest thrill as a kid was when you’d get a little glimpse inside Bosco’s cute box, and I can confirm it’s as enthralling as ever! I know, I should probably get out more. Anyway, we started our Bosco love affair on a Friday but by Sunday my sidekick was over it. Probably just as well – he was starting to grate a tad, on my nerves and my ears.  It was a nice trip down memory lane while it lasted, though. I’m half thinking of introducing her to Wanderly Wagon next. Well, maybe not.

• The other thing she  brought in to school was a camera belonging to her granny which also took me right back. Mainly to the absolute devastation you’d feel when your photos would arrive back in the post and out of an entire 24, there’d only be one or two that had actually worked out. That’s if you were lucky. It was such a potentially hazardous experience you’d wonder why we even bothered. You’d take the photo, have no idea how anyone looked (filters were unheard of), or if the flash went off (which it usually didn’t), or if the film was installed properly (which it usually wasn’t), then send them off, wait what seemed like an eternity to get them back, only for inevitable heartbreak. It’s a miracle any of us have any photos from the 70s and 80s at all! 

• Anyway, we tore ourselves away from Bosco to enjoy the first afternoon of the season at the beach last weekend. The water was surprisingly warm and in typical fashion we used around 28 towels between us, and managed to get the whole house and car covered in sand. All hoovering has now been suspended until September and it’s an ease to me. If only there was a legit way to get out of the dinners, too, I’d be laughing. 

• Finally, for anyone interested I’m still on the dry (thanks … I’m proud of myself too) and just for a change, I don’t have any Netflix recommendations this week. A surreal moment saw myself and my husband devote 20 precious minutes of life trying to decide what to watch on the streaming service on Friday night, having a mini domestic in the process, before finally settling on something only to realise 15 minutes in that we had already seen it, or something very like it. As Bosco would say – uafásach! I did watch the first episode of RTÉ’s Clean Sweep and I enjoyed it. I think.  Parts were a bit dodgy, and clichéd (a bit like myself) but I’m a Charlene McKenna fan so I think I’ll show up for more. 

• The photos of Roy Keane’s visit to the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind certainly cheered us up this week. He was there to launch the charity’s annual fundraising campaign Guide Dog Day which takes place on Friday 26th May, followed by their nationwide dog walks on Saturday and Sunday, May 27 and 28th.

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