Back in the late 1980s, Gay Byrne announced that he would be broadcasting his radio show from Sydney, Australia in a few weeks time.
I was in Tralee covering the annual Rose Festival and having a few jars now and then (or was it having a few jars and covering the Rose Festival now and then?)
My then boss at the Evening Herald, Michael Brophy, called me and asked me to have a word with Gay, who was, as ever, hosting the event on television.
“Ask him, if I was to send you out to Australia with him, if he would co-operate with us doing stories every day.”
I did. He said he would.
And so off I went to Australia.
It was all a bit rushed and I was absolutely knackered by the time I landed.
The ‘phone beside my hotel bed rang just as I nodded off.
It was Gaybo’s producer John Caden, telling me they had a great story.
“Yeh, yeh,” I replied. I was knackered and needed sleep. I said I’d call back later.
Half an hour later he rang again.
And I told him I’d call back and hung up.
Then he called again telling me Gay wanted to talk to me.
Well, not many journalists get a call telling them Gay Byrne wants to talk to them.
So I struggled out of bed and…
Well, I didn’t get many scoops in my career, but this was one.
I got up to John’s room and he was in bed.
Gay and some other members of the team were there.
John started to tell me the story.
It seems that they had all gone out to Bondi Beach that morning.
Three, producer John Caden along with Philip Kampf and Cathy Moore went for a swim.
They waved at Gay from the sea.
All jolly good fun.
Well, that’s what it was until Gay realized they weren’t happy waves.
The three of them were in trouble. And they were waving to attract attention so Gay could raise the alarm.
They were being swept out to sea by a ‘rip’ – a strong current almost invisible to the naked eye.
All three had to be rescued by a lifeguard who, despite the fact that she was the strongest swimmer, rescued Cathy first. Well, she was a lot better looking than John or Philip – at least that was his excuse.
And John was still in bed because he still wasn’t the better of it.
The story of the dramatic rescue of Gay Byrne’s team on Bondi Beach – with its exclusive quotes from the man himself – was, of course, a massive lead story for the Evening Herald.
The then editor of the Evening Press, Sean Ward, told me later that it was the only time he had ever been caught completely cold by a story.
And that made it all the better!