Sunday 20 May 2018

Radio show features story of Peter's life

Former athletes and friends of Peter McArdle at the Peter McArdle tribute night in The Crowne Plaza.
Former athletes and friends of Peter McArdle at the Peter McArdle tribute night in The Crowne Plaza.

Anne Campbell

AN inspirational Irishman from Blackrock whose principles led him to leave Ireland and become one of America's highest achieving athletes has provided the genesis for a radio documentary and an appreciation night.

Long distance runner Peter McArdle has been described as the 'best athlete never to represent Ireland' and thanks to Dundalk man Frank O'Callaghan, the legend's life and times have been brought to a whole new audience.

Frank, a former athlete himself, first had the idea to write something about Peter when he was asked by Tempests to include a piece about Thomas McArdle engineering company, which he used to work for and that employed over 250 people in its hey-day. There was a reunion in November 2011, some 23 years after its closure.

It was this connection that led Frank to Peter McArdle and the athlete's family gave him permission to get started on a radio documentary about the Blackrock man's life.

It opened the door to a wonderful story about a man whose achievements have been largely forgotten outside the world of athletics. Frank said: 'I only knew of Peter by reputation and his family here had worked over the years to promote his name and memory through races and trophies in his honour. 'He is recognised as one of the best athletes ever to come out of this country and it can be said he was the best athlete never to represent his birth country at the Olympic Games.

Easily the best athlete Louth has ever produced, Peter's story continues to be remembered by those who knew and loved him in Dundalk. And the affection in which he is held here was evident a couple of weeks ago at a special commemorative event held in the Crowne Plaza, which was attended by his sister, Maeve O'Neill, who still lives in Blackrock and her husband, Maurice and family as well as his nieces Avril and Marie and their families.

And thanks to modern technology, his daughter, Maeve Vinci, was able to address the audience of her late father's friends, neighbours and contemporaries via Skype, where she told them that her dad would have wondered why all the fuss on the night was about him.

Afterwards, Maeve said she was delighted and honoured to speak to so many of her dad's former running mates and friends. Also on display was memorabilia of Peter's, including his race number with the pin still in it and race programmes in which he was featured.

The radio documentary about Peter's life and times will be aired on Dundalk FM (100FM) later this year.

The Argus