Saturday 24 March 2018

Ryan Tubridy: My grandfather’s life as a revolutionary

Ryan Tubridy and Barry Andrews talk to John Meagher about their grandfather, Todd Andrews

Ryan Tubridy does not mince his words when asked why it is that some school students say they don’t like history.

“They think they don’t like history,” the Late Late Show host says, “but often it’s because they don’t have a history teacher who truly engages them, someone who makes the past come alive.”

The broadcaster has long been taken by history, especially those seismic years between 1913 and 1923 when the country’s fortunes changed forever and he believes the events of Easter 1916 were pivotal.

“The importance of the Rising cannot be overstated and I would urge everyone, young and old, to learn as much as possible about it. Those of us who live in Dublin have reminders of it all around us, and the buildings of O’Connell Street resonate with history.”

His grandfather on his mother’s side, Christopher Stephen “Todd” Andrews, was taught by Patrick Pearse at St Enda’s School in Rathfarnham, Dublin. He used to recall coming home one day to find Pearse in the parlour of his parents house discussing school fees.

Todd Andrews was just 15 when the Rising happened and although he would play no active part in that conflict, he would fight in the War of Independence and for the Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. “There’s a window above the Burger King in O’Connell Street and that’s where my grandfather was shooting from and was shot at [during the War of Independence].”

Barry Andrews (left) with a picture of his grandfather Todd Andrews and Eamon de Valera, while Ryan Tubridy holds a picture of Todd Andrews.
Barry Andrews (left) with a picture of his grandfather Todd Andrews and Eamon de Valera, while Ryan Tubridy holds a picture of Todd Andrews.

His other grandfather, Sean Tubridy, also fought for Irish freedom, and Tubridy learnt a lot about him when he took part in the TV show, Who Do You Think You Are?

“Like my mother’s father, he was on the Anti-Treaty side. I learned a lot about my family tree and I think one of the most invaluable things you can ever do is to find out about your own family tree and get a sense of those relations of yours who have gone before.”

With the centenary of 1916 almost upon us, now is an excellent time, he reasons, for school students to investigate their families’ pasts. 

Ryan Tubridy’s first cousin, the former Fianna Fáil TD Barry Andrews, is also captivated by 1916 and the role Todd Andrews (also, of course, his grandfather) played in the early years of the State. “He was a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, right up until the day he died,” he recalls. “I had begun my first year at UCD when he died, but I remember him well. Once, as for a laugh, when I was in London, I sent him a postcard with a photo of the Queen on it.”

Andrews studied history at college and went on to be a history teacher before entering public life (he is now the chief executive of the GOAL charity). “The beauty of history is that it’s never black and white and 1916, in particular, is rich with complexity. For a long time, the history taught in schools didn’t look at all sides but it does now and today’s students are fortunate for that.”

Meanwhile, Ryan Tubridy, who is making a television documentary on 1916, says the Rising should be celebrated “with pride and dignity”.

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