Sunday 25 February 2018

How the mystery of Wanderly Wagon's whereabouts was solved - by Gaybo

Here comes... Wanderly Wagon — with Eugene Lambert (O’Brien) and Nora O’Mahony (Godmother) in the front seat
Here comes... Wanderly Wagon — with Eugene Lambert (O’Brien) and Nora O’Mahony (Godmother) in the front seat
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Broadcaster Gay Byrne was coming to the end of his career as host of The Late Late Show when the producers decided it would be a great idea to take a trip down memory lane on one of his final episodes.

"Don't RTE still own the wagon?" one of them asked during a brainstorming session, "maybe we could put it on the show".

He was, of course, referring to the iconic and magical focal point of the children's drama Wanderly Wagon. For people of a certain age, the wagon is a cherished national heirloom evoking memories of O'Brien, Judge, Fortycoats and Mr Crow. It turned out RTE had lost it, as Gaybo and his colleagues discovered.

One of the team went around the back of the Donnybrook studios after hearing that was where the wagon was last seen. When he got there, it was gone. It had not been there for nearly 16 years and word was put out that Gaybo and the 'Late Late' team wanted it back.

A search began but the main stumbling block was the fact many of the staff who had worked on Wanderly Wagon had long since left RTE.

Eventually, one researcher heard of a sighting of the wagon at a yard in Bray, Co Wicklow, but when they arrived, it had gone. "Try Fossett's Circus. I think they had it for a while," they were told.

It turned out Fossett's still had possession of the wagon but asked the Sunday Independent not to name its specific location, fearing middle-aged men and women would come looking to be reintroduced their childhood.

"It would be impossible to accommodate everyone," said Fossett's marketing manager Charles O'Brien.

The wagon last saw daylight six years ago at an event in Collins Barracks. One celebrity thought nobody was looking when he knocked on the flying sweetshop, spelled out the name of his favourite chocolate bar and put his hand inside hoping it would appear there.

That clamour for the wagon was evident in Byrne's second-to-last episode of the 'Late Late'. As Wanderly Wagon's creator Eugene Lambert walked on to the set with the carriage, the audience burst into song. Mr Byrne played the part of conductor and lead singer: "Here comes the wagon, Wanderly Wanderly Wagon."

Sunday Independent

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