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Alf McCarthy had a varied career not just in the media. RTÉ

Much-loved former RTÉ presenter Alf McCarthy dies aged 73

The father of two from Ballinlough in Cork city passed away yesterday at Cork University Hospital.

THE DEATH HAS occurred of Alf McCarthy who spent over thirty five years working as a producer, director and presenter on RTE radio and television.

The 73-year-old father of two from Ballinlough in Cork city passed away yesterday at Cork University Hospital following a short illness.

He began broadcasting from RTÉ’s Cork studio in 1979 as part of the Radio Cork service and gained national exposure by providing content for Radio 1.

Tributes began to emerge to McCarthy on social media late last night, with Tánaiste Micheál Martin describing McCarthy as warm and courteous.

Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Kieran McCarthy said that Alf was “always a great pleasure to chat to, a great performer and a dedicated building community man.” He offered his sincere condolences to the family of the deceased.

Members of the The Great Singalong Songbook, who regularly performed with Alf, said that they were “absolutely devastated and heartbroken” at his passing.

“Just ten days, we shared the Everyman stage together in Burt Bacharach — A Celebration. We don’t know how to begin to process our profound loss. Our deepest sympathies go to Alf’s family and friends at this most difficult time.”

The Cork Theatrical Memories Facebook page featured messages from producer director and playwright and former Director of Everyman Palace Theatre Patrick Talbot, Catherine Mahon Buckley of CADA and Elmarie Mawe, Arts Presenter on Cork’s 96FM.

Ms Mawe posted on Twitter that she was “deeply saddened” to hear of the passing last night (wed) of the “one and only Alf McCarthy.”

“He was full of such humour and mischief, and was a true performer to the end, only on stage in the Everyman Cork ten days ago.”

PJ Coogan, presenter of the Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM, said he had fond memories of McCarthy having met him in the 1980’s in RTÉ Cork and as DJ’s in Chandra’s Nightclub.

McCarthy, who was a father of two daughters and a grandfather, retired in 2015. Upon his retirement the Late Date host said in in an interview with RTÉ that he loved the “intimacy of radio.”

Alf is best-known locally for presenting Corkabout, the flagship current affairs and arts programme for over two decades years on RTÉ Radio 1. He also created comedy and satire series Shortt Circuit, The Usual Suspects and Bull Island and produced documentaries such as The Cleggan Disaster, Early Doors No More and A Tale of Three Cities.

On RTÉ Television, McCarthy presented Live at Three, PM Live and Down Here with a View to Above. Following his retirement he presented the ‘Later with Alf” music podcast on Mixcloud.

Acting was also a passion and he featured in many plays. In recent years he joined the hugely popular Everyman Sunday Songbook team touring theatres in Ireland. The Songbook series of concerts has become a firm favourite for music fans arising out of its eclectic mix of music, story and memory. The song team included the late McCarthy and also featured Linda Kenny, Damian Smith and Alan Carney.

McCarthy was an award winning actor appearing in plays such as A Streetcar named Desire, The Women in Black and The Dresser amongst others.

Varied career

His career was a varied one. He worked in the Sunbeam factory, managed Pizzaland in Patrick Street in the city centre, worked for TV rental company RTV, spent two decades as a DJ , was a podcaster and voice over artist and laboured at Irish Steel.

At the time of his death he was living in Rosscarbery in West Cork. He decided to move back to the county in 2020 having lived in Dublin for a decade.

In an interview with singer and friend Linda Kenny in the Echo newspaper in 2021 McCarthy said that radio captivated him from an early age because “you could listen to parts of the world that you only visited in your dreams.”

He said that as a youngster he was sent to Sullivan’s Quay school but he was a ‘dreamer’ so his parents decided to enrol him in the Capuchin College boarding school in Rochestown in Cork.

He said that he got his artistic appetite from his father Buddy Mac who along with being a stonemason was a popular band leader and saxophonist in the show bands.

McCarthy felt that radio was a “lifeline for some” and “nectar” to him. He featured in an Irish Independent interview last month he where he was asked what his worst ever job was over the course of his life.

A gifted conversationalist to the end he said that it was definitely his stint selling encyclopaedias in Alberta in Canada.

“The snow hit the day after we landed. I was wearing my cotton pants from Cork and was frozen going around knocking on doors.

On one occasion there was steam coming off my head when I’d knock on a door – my hair was frozen on my head because I’d gone out with wet hair.”

In December of last year McCarthy spoke at the funeral of his friend actor, presenter and writer Frank Twomey. It was in the aftermath of the Shane McGowan funeral where Hollywood actor Johnny Depp surprised attendees by saying a prayer of the faithful.

McCarthy quipped that he was drafted in to say the first reading “as Johnny Depp couldn’t make it.” He said that his late friend “did it all but he did it so well’ a sentiment which friends and former colleagues were this morning attributing to him.

Olivia Kelleher
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