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Radio review: Ray D’Arcy shines a light on why the ‘patroness of Ireland’ is losing out in the name game


Ray D'Arcy returned to RTÉ airwaves eight years ago. Photo by Andres Poveda

Ray D'Arcy returned to RTÉ airwaves eight years ago. Photo by Andres Poveda

Ray D'Arcy returned to RTÉ airwaves eight years ago. Photo by Andres Poveda

It’s been eight years since Ray D’Arcy’s return to RTÉ from Today FM, where he’d shot the lights out for a decade with a hugely popular, very entertaining morning programme. The Kildare man slotted into Radio 1 in mid-afternoons with The Ray D’Arcy Show (Mon-Fri 3pm), and it’s been… okay.

Not bad, not great. There’s not a whole lot actually wrong with it per se. It holds its own in the ratings, so the public must like it.

But I hardly ever listen myself, and in fact, often forget it exists at all. It’s an odd sort of grey space in the middle of the schedule. It never leaps into the mind, unbidden, demanding your attention, the way plenty of other shows do — including ones that occupy the same ballpark in subject matter and tone. The Ray D’Arcy Show stands in that middle-point between hard news and softer lifestyle stuff, shading towards the latter. In general I like that: too much current affairs makes you want to slit your wrists, too much fluff and nonsense feels somehow like a waste of time.

Yet I rarely catch this, and never think of it. At the same time, when I do tune in, it’s fine — a perfectly passable hour-and-a-half of radio. Is that damning with faint praise?

This week author and journalist Ronan McGreevy was speaking about the name Brigid, and it was enjoyable: one of those D’Arcy-esque bits which are breezy and mildly informative. Ahead of the new bank holiday named after, as McGreevy put it, “the patroness of Ireland”, they combed over CSO figures for baby names and found that Brigid has “fallen massively out of favour”.

These stats go back to 1964, when 595 babies were given that name under the modernised spelling of Bridget. In 2021, the most recent year included, there were only 20.

It gets worse for the traditionally spelled Brigid: fewer than three from 2014-2017 and in 2021. Other iterations — Bridie, Breda etc — also declined; even added together, the name in its many variations is now only given to 40 or 50 girls in a year.

“It seems,” McGreevy said, “to be going the way of all those saints’ names people were called: John, Patrick, Anne, Mary.” In 1964 Irish women gave birth to over 3000 Marys; in 2021 it was 41. More shockingly, that beautiful and timeless name Anne was bestowed on only six girls in the latest figures.

Patrick was top boys’ name until 1984; these days it’s a tenth of its former number, in what McGreevy termed an “historical decline”. These, after all, were what Irish kids were called for centuries, not just decades.

D’Arcy also spoke to Pamela Murphy, a former embalmer now en route — ahem — to becoming a train driver with Irish Rail. She’d worked with her dad for 12 years; people have an image of their loved one, we learned, and the embalmer does their best to recreate that. The best compliment you can get, Pamela said, is: “Oh, they look great!”

She wanted a change of scenery, and is literally getting that now: the views from the driver’s seat are “just unbelievable”. Murphy was a likeable and cheery interviewee, D’Arcy was engaged and animated; they had a bit of craic together.

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An entertaining segment in a decent edition of the show. And yet, I probably won’t be listening again for a long time — and still not quite sure why that is.​

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