Sunday 21 December 2014

I know what heartbreak is - Anne Doyle

LOVED-UP: Anne Doyle and her partner of 10 years Dan McGrattan. 'He is very smart, very kind, very pragmatic. Weaknesses, he doesn't seem to have a lot of,' says Anne.
LOVED-UP: Anne Doyle and her partner Dan McGrattan. 'He is very smart, very kind, very pragmatic. Weaknesses, he doesn't seem to have a lot of,' says Anne.
Dan McGrattan and Anne Doyle arrive at the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards at the Marker Hotel Dublin

Anne Doyle was one of Ireland's best loved broadcasters and remains one of our sexiest women. Her life has not been without its ups and downs, but she has finally found lasting love with restaurateur Dan McGrattan.

She's a national institution. You only realise this when you're out with her and cars stop and people wave. Anne Doyle's suddenly not a woman any more, but that woman who was on the telly for over 30 years.

"I started radio in October 1978," she recalls, "and television on Christmas Day that year." It's hard to believe she was born in 1952. Her birth certificate says January 30. Her mother told her the 31st. "Two birthdays are good," she laughs. Her eyes sparkle in the summer sunshine on Baggot Street. "My eyes are green," she says, "so would my hair be if chlorine got at the bleach."The blonde harbours secret ambitions about the Seanad. She says she would consider becoming a senator if she was asked and if she thought she could be of some service to Ireland. Sometimes her answers wouldn't be out of place in the upper house of the Oireachtas. When I ask Anne how she'd characterise her 1998 relationship with former minister Jim McDaid now, she says: "I had a brief and enjoyable relationship with James McDaid. We parted amicably, both luckily to move to happy places..."

I remind her of the interview we did in 2001, and that our conversation went like this:

Me: "Did you have an affair with him?"

Anne: "Why should I bother saying yes or no? We had a relationship. We had a friendship. I mean it as I say it now. We have a friendship now; we had a relationship then which was more than friendship. We had a relationship for not that long. Maybe six months."

But back to 2013. I say to her now: single RTE star Anne Doyle had an affair with married minister Jim McDaid – would you agree with that characterisation?

"See previous answer," she laughs as we walk down the street in the sun. "I don't regret anything. There were no lighthouses to guide us."

That's a nice segue from the star who until she retired on Christmas Day 2011 was one of RTE's most beloved broadcasters: on September 14, she will chair a symposium on lighthouses in Hook Lighthouse in her home county of Wexford as part of the Gathering.

The spot has deep romantic resonances. When she was 10, on a primary school trip to Hook Head, the young ingenue from Ferns fell in love with the lighthouse-keeper's 14-year-old son. Anne Doyle says it was love in its purest form, but she never spoke to him nor ever saw him again. "I never met him and I still haven't."

Dan McGrattan and Anne Doyle arrive at the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards at the Marker Hotel Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy
Dan McGrattan and Anne Doyle arrive at the Peter Mark VIP Style Awards at the Marker Hotel Dublin. Picture: Brian McEvoy

Her love for restaurateur Dan McGrattan is a bit more real, thankfully. They met "a little over a decade ago" in a mutual friend's house in Dublin. Anne said she'd kill for a bag of chips. He said he knew just the place. And so he took her in his gold Rolls Royce to Aprile's chipper on South Richmond Street ...

Two minutes after arriving, Anne had a good feeling about Dan. "I think it was a young fella made my mind up about Dan," she explains as we sit to have lunch in his restaurant McGrattan's in Dublin's Fitzwilliam Lane. "When we parked, this young urchin ran up with his fellow urchins to Dan and said: 'We'll mind your car, mister.' Dan said, 'They remind me of me as a young fella, hustling'. I thought: 'What a nice man!'

"He went to give me a tentative goodnight kiss. I said to him: 'I'm sorry. The 10-year rule applies.' But the 10-year rule didn't last for long, because that was that. I'm an all-or-nothing kind of person."

How long before she realised that Dan was someone she could be in a relationship with?

Anne's own lifestyle is not exactly regular. Her 'domestic goddess contribution' consists of pouring the Special K for Dan in the morning and giving him a cup of tea.

"I kind of scrounge my meals wherever I go," she says, gently making inroads into a steak-and-spuds lunch in her fella's famous restaurant. "I like to tidy, but I am quite lazy, to be honest. Someone once said to me if I saw dust, I would straighten it. I like symmetry."

I ask her if Dan McGrattan is the love of her life.

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