Wednesday 20 September 2017

Maeve's love letter to St Valentine's last resting place

Maeve Higgins
Maeve Higgins
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'I moved to Dublin in the year 2000 - which sounds like it's in the future, but actually it's in the past. I spent a lot of time exploring the city on my own, going to museums and libraries and churches. . . you know, the kind of thing every well-adjusted, popular 19-year-old does during their first year in college."

So begins Valentine's Bones, produced and presented by Maeve Higgins as part of the award-winning Documentary on One series (Radio 1, Sun 7pm).

RTÉ have an incredible archive of these built up over the years, and while not all are to my taste - I find a good few of them to be sort of boring and uneventful - there's a lot of fine work in there, and this was a good one.

In short, Higgins - a Cork-born comedian and writer - has been visiting Whitefriar Street Church for over 10 years.

Housed here are the relics of St Valentine himself, including some of his bones and a vial apparently tinged with his blood. There's also a notebook on Valentine's shrine, in which visitors write prayers to the most romantic saint of all.

And Maeve is fascinated by the things within in its pages - like finding a diary, except this contains the private thoughts of multitudes, not just one person.

This was all quite interesting of itself - especially if you know the church in question, and if you don't, get there post-haste. But the best thing about the documentary was Higgins. She's a very likeable host and guide: funny, cheerful, even a bit daft at times (that's meant as a compliment, by the way).

She's also more thoughtful than you'd expect in someone who has to think up jokes for a living. It'll be interesting to see what she produces next, should she decide to do another radio documentary.

Another woman making waves on radio this week is Alison Curtis. The genial Canadian (and an Irish citizen since last year) increased the audience for her Saturday Breakfast with Alison Curtis (Today FM, Sat 8am) by a massive 51,000 listeners in the recent JNLR figures.

This is a stratospheric jump in the ratings, especially when you consider that the previous figure was only 135,000.

That's close on a 40pc rise. And Curtis has achieved this incredible result in her low-key, laid-back, softly spoken way.

When Ray D'Arcy left the station's mid-morning slot, Curtis filled in for several weeks, I argued here that she should have been the permanent replacement. I still think that, and now have the stats to back me up.

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