Before Sea Stories was conceived, the last time I had met John Murphy (the presenter of the series) was nearly four decades ago when he had set up Bray Local Broadcasting (BLB) and I was a maverick DJ influenced by the styles of Radio Luxembourg and Kenny Everett. Fast-forward in the time machine and John and I are sitting together to flesh out the idea and hone the subsequent pitch to the Broadcast Authority of Ireland (BAI) to help realise Sea Stories as a radio documentary series. Me, I had never sailed and only ever in a small rowing boat a couple of times. That rowing boat was my father’s. It was a boat that he bought and rebuilt in his retirement. In his youth he had been a fisherman and had also worked on The Congress, a 36-person passenger boat, which plied its trade off Bray seafront in the 50s up to the 70s. Back then, these hardy men used to row out after dark to Kilcoole and beyond and back, returning just before dawn with their fresh catch of fish. And then, remarkably, they went about their actual ‘day jobs’.
In 2008, I made a two-part documentary series, One Mile Long – Bray Seafront Remembered, which captured some of the stories from the people who remembered Bray seafront back in its halcyon days. There are many fine local historians who have written about Bray, however, I had wanted to capture in voice the stories and memories for a younger generation – largely unaware of Bray’s rich heritage – before it was too late. And so to Sea Stories, I had no notion about sailing or ships other than seeing them far off on the horizon from the DART or on my much-loved walks along Dun Laoghaire’s pier or Bray’s promenade.
The premise behind the series is to share the stories and passion of the individuals featured to an Irish and worldwide audience. Primarily, the series is for radio, however, in today’s global village, radio is reaching far beyond its native stomping ground and our programmes are on up on iTunes and Soundcloud. Our stats reveal listeners from over twenty countries around the globe. Proof that the sea’s mystery and allure is truly universal.
As producer of the series, I knew that John Murphy had the experience and enthusiasm to engage and draw out the stories from our guests. Any ‘dropped in’ presenter would immediately be exposed as such by our contributors and our astute listeners. Any degree of hesitation John felt about taking on the role of presenter was quickly dispelled when we started to sail. John’s easy-going manner and complete knowledge and experience put all our contributors at ease, which meant that all I had to do was to make sure that all scenes and engaging conversations were caught ‘on tape’ and that our story plot points were covered. The odd time, I would interject and ask John or our guest to clarify or add to something just said. Afterwards, I had hours of tape to wrangle and to craft into a listener-friendly programme. (If you really want to get to know someone, spend a couple of days sifting through their stories on Pro Tools!).
My objective for the series is to bring the sea closer to our listeners and to present new insights and hopefully, arouse a newfound curiosity in all things nautical. It has to work for those with experience of the sea but also listeners, who like me, are just curious and fascinated with the sea. Making this series I have certainly learnt a lot about the sea and its people. It’s been a fascinating journey for yours truly and along the way I’ve met with many wonderful and warm people who all generously shared their time and stories. I humbly bow to their experience and truly admire their spirit of adventure. I now have a much more explored appreciation for the sea and I have discovered some common traits among our contributors and I expect these traits to be among sea-going folk at large: resilience, stoicism, a built-in sense of adventure, a respect and reverence for the sea and that innate sang-froid. And so wherever you are in the world – on land or even mid-ocean on super yacht – I hope our little programmes will conjure up images of the sea in your mind’s eye and that the conversations will hold your attention for a while in an all too busy world competing with us for your precious time.