'Reading the news helped cure my black moods'
Her job may have been therapeutic, Anne Doyle tells Ken Sweeney, but she has no regrets about leaving RTE
IT was the little red light that told Anne Doyle she was on air. But the now-retired news anchor credits the transmission signal with fighting off the blues throughout her decades working for RTE.
In her most revealing interview since leaving the station in December 2011, the Wexford woman reveals how being in front of the cameras staved off the black moods she sometimes felt.
"I was never secretive about it. I suppose I was never asked. Like most people, I have bouts of being in pretty black moods. Unless you are very lucky and very positive, I think everybody goes through these periods. What was probably lucky for me, and therapeutic, was when the red light goes on, you have to concentrate and forget whatever else you're feeling. I guess I was lucky in RTE, I always had to rock on," she said.
Just how hypnotic a quality the 'ON' had on Anne was demonstrated one night when, just minutes before going on camera to read the news, she caught her thumb in a car door.
"I was lucky I didn't lose my thumb. The entire nail on my thumb fell off. The pain was excruciating, somewhere beyond agony. The worst I had ever felt, but when that red light went on that night at 9pm, it miraculously went. But come 9.30, with the news over, the pain was back with renewed vigour," she said.
Those 'losery feelings', as Anne calls them, were "just mild to moderate".
She added: "I was lucky. I never missed a day in my life over a black mood. But I'm sure reading the news and being on television did help stave off those feelings. All that is said as a lay person. I know depression can be so bad, some people can't get out of bed in the morning. That's a whole different ball game."
While she might not be working to a red light anymore, Anne hasn't suffered any black moods since taking early retirement from RTE at the end of 2011.
Maybe that's because she has been so busy travelling.
"I was in Jamaica in January since then, the US, Gran Canaria and Portugal this year, where I found the most amazing village, Nazare, north of Lisbon," she added stressing that nothing beats her home county of Wexford for whom she has been an ambassador during this year of The Gathering.
Although Anne might be gone from RTE, she remains as razor sharp and funny beneath her trademark blonde bob as ever.
When told the Q&A page of an Irish daily paper recently informed readers: "Anne Doyle read the news on RTE for 28 years", longer than any previous newscaster, her response is typical Anne Doyle: "Well, I can't think of any poor bastard that lasted longer." (laughs).
Moments later, she is absorbing the information: "No, 28 is not right, it was more like 35 years."
She's right, of course: Anne joined RTE as a newsreader in 1978, aged 26, delivering her final bulletin on Christmas night 2011.
Two years later, she says she has no regrets about her decision to avail of a deal, which saw her leave the station early.
"I was on the point of turning 60 so it wasn't wildly early. I would have loved to have gone when I was 50 but I couldn't afford to. I wouldn't have got a penny in pension until that deal came along," she said.
But she could have worked till she was 65.
"In my case, I felt the time was right and when something feels right, it's that bit easier to make a decision. I'd offer this advice to anyone in the same position: rather than dwelling on the money side, it's more important how you feel. If your heart is still in what you're doing, then you should stay in the job," she said.
But Anne's decision was to break free and by her side on many of her holidays this year was her long-term partner, Dan McGrattan.
But asked if marriage could finally be on the agenda for her and the popular restaurateur, her response was: "Feck Off." (more laughter).
"I'm a great believer in leaving things alone if they are fine. What's that old adage: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. In life, happiness is not guaranteed.
"There's a modern view that we should be happy all the time, but actually life is not like that. So if you are happy for a while, you're lucky. I've no wish to ice the cake and cause it to collapse."
Neither does she regret not having children. "Not even an Italian gynaecologist could do anything for me now. But I have no regrets.
"Dan has five grandchildren and I have two nieces who both have children so there is no shortage of children in my life," she said.
Having left RTE and with time on her hands, now would seem the perfect time for Anne to pen her memoirs. But she declines, despite lucrative offers and autobiographies from her fellow RTE stars flying off the shelves.
"Well, the fact that other presenters have done memoirs seems to me a good reason for not doing it. I have had a number of life experiences that were fascinating to me and perhaps now to other people, but why the hell would I want to tell anyone about it?
"If there's anybody out there who has any concern that I'm indiscreet, I don't kiss and tell. I have no wish to write an autobiography. It just doesn't appeal to me."
Instead, she has spent the past two years channelling her life experience into penning fiction, but has yet to decide if she wants to have it published.
"I'm attempting to write short stories; how well I am getting on, I just don't know. On a good day, I would say 'grand', but on a not-so-confident day, I would say it's rubbish. Hopefully, the truth is somewhere in between," she said.
But after disappearing from our living rooms two years ago, she is now hinting for the first time that she may be due a return.
"I probably will at some point. Watch this space is all I can say right now," said the broadcaster whose fans include TV boss Ben Frow, formerly of TV3, now Director of Programmes at UK's Channel 5.
Among the projects she says interest her are those concerning travel, history and folklore.
"Those are the things that I'm keen on. So, maybe going on a literary journey for a programme – that I could do. But as for presenting for the sake of presenting? No. When you do something for a long time, it's done.
"And, anyway, the world is full of bright young things who want to read the news. After all, I should know: I was a bright young thing myself once."
The TV project would be the first many have seen of Anne since she featured on a postage stamp, one of a series in 2011 from An Post celebrating RTE's TV50.
But Anne herself is playing down any "fuss" if she does return to TV screens.
"I'm fed up hearing about me. It's not as if I was a garda, a doctor or a nurse. If you collapse clutching your chest, it's not Anne Doyle you'll be looking for."