Musical producer

Obituary: Colm Keane, RTÉ presenter, producer and journalist who has written numerous books on a wide range of subjects, from Padre Pio to the Beatles

Author, journalist and broadcaster Colm Keane, who died aged 70, was a dynamic and highly professional journalist, presenter and producer at RTÉ who later became a prolific author of numerous books on a wide range of subjects, including Padre Pio, Bernadette of Lourdes, near-death experiences, sport and Irish Beatles concerts.

Olm Cornelius Keane was born on 15 September 1951 in Youghal, Co Cork and attended the local Christian Brothers primary school before progressing to second level as a boarder at St Augustine’s College in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. He obtained a BA from Trinity College Dublin, where he also obtained an MA in economics and political science. He then earned a second postgraduate degree in economics at Georgetown University in Washington DC.

Colm was predeceased by his two older brothers: Eamonn, the eldest, who was a former marketing executive at Bord Fáilte in the 1960s; and Seán, who became an orthopedic surgeon in Milwaukee, USA.

His career at RTÉ began in 1977, where he first worked as a television journalist. He co-hosted the investigative series public account with Pat Kenny and also worked as a reporter on the current affairs program today tonight. His scriptwriting and presentation of the science series A future in mind won a Glaxo grant for European scientific writing.

He moved to RTÉ Radio 1 in the early 1980s as a journalist, presenter and producer, winning a Jacob’s Award in 1988 for American Profileswhich included a report on a visit to death row at a Texas prison, a profile of an Auschwitz survivor in New York, and a documentary on astronaut James Irwin.

He has also compiled and presented documentaries centered on interviews with a wide range of music personalities, such as Burt Bacharach, Chubby Checker, Engelbert Humperdinck, Pete Seeger, Val Doonican, Glen Campbell and Neil Sedaka.

Another of his documentary subjects was legendary Manchester United footballer George Best. He also brought a fresh and original perspective to the Troubles in Northern Ireland when he produced and presented the documentary A Belfast Game, about the Ardoyne Kickhams under-16 football team. He also co-presented Workshop 10 with the future President of Ireland, Mary McAleese.

Colm Keane retired from broadcasting in 2003 and became a highly productive full-time author or co-author of 29 books, many of them bestsellers. Many of them have a religious aspect, like Bernadette’s village: the Irish connectionwritten jointly with his wife, former RTÉ news presenter Una O’Hagan.

It was published in 2019 by Capel Island Press, a company set up by Colm himself and named after a small island off the coast of Youghal, and the book is primarily about the healings experienced by Irish pilgrims to Lourdes over the years. years later Bernadette Soubirous (1844-79) had 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Readers are allowed to make their own judgments about the remedies, which some skeptics have described as psychosomatic.

the Irish Beatles Concerts, published by Capel Island in 2008 and dedicated to his 20-year-old son Sean, who had died of cancer on Christmas Day the previous year, gives a well-researched, comprehensive and very readable account of the Irish visit of the “Fab Four in November 1963 when they played to cheering audiences at the Adelphi in Dublin and the ABC Ritz in Belfast Interestingly, attendance at the band’s “mad and chaotic” press conference in Dublin included the poet Patrick Kavanagh (who was certainly not a fan and walked around the room talking about himself) and a future rock star in his own right, 12-year-old Bob Geldof, who was accompanied by his sister, Lynn.

The loss of his son motivated Colm to take a very close look at death and dying and he wrote four books on these subjects, including On the way to the light (Capel Island, 2014), which describes “the ten things that happen to you when you die”. He interviewed over 100 people from different religions who had had a near-death experience. Many of them compared it to traveling through a tunnel, seeing bright lights and feeling a sense of peace they had never experienced before.

Another book in this direction, We’ll Meet Again: Irish Deathbed Visions – Who You’ll Meet When You Die (Capel Island, 2013) features case histories including the experience of Paddy (no surname given), from Co Cork who ‘passed away’ for a short time during heart surgery in 2009.

Paddy recalls: “The operation was long and complicated. During it, I met each of my family members who had passed away before. I met my father and my mother. My mother had died in 1976, at the age of 76… I could see her clearly, moving and looking at me. My father was sitting on a chair.

Co-written with his wife Una O’Hagan, The Little Flower Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Irish Connection (Capel Island 2018) recounts the suffering experienced by “one of Ireland’s favorite saints” after she became a nun at 15, as well as “her miracles, including cures for cancer, arthritis, meningitis, infertility and sepsis”.

He first heard of Padre Pio (1887-1968) when he was distracted at a boarding school mass by a pamphlet about the Capuchin monk and mystic canonized by the Catholic Church who was famous for exhibiting stigmata: bodily marks similar to the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion. Christ.

Colm wrote three books about him and donated the proceeds to the Dublin Capuchin Day Center for Homeless People. The center’s brother Kevin Crowley attended his funeral.

Colm died Jan. 21 of epiglottis cancer, first diagnosed in 2011 and returned in even more serious fashion last year.

He is survived by his wife Una (O’Hagan) and his sisters Ethna (Fitzgerald) and Finola (Murphy). His funeral took place on January 25 at the Notre-Dame de Lourdes de Youghal church, which has been associated with his family since the 1930s and where he served at the altar as a child.

Canon William Bermingham said: “His writing career, which was so prolific after his retirement from broadcasting, provides us with a list of titles which in our time is remarkable for its concentration on aspects of life which are usually left unexplored.”

Speaking of Colm’s “quest for deeper meaning and truth”, Canon Bermingham listed the saints whose lives Keane chose to explore in his books: “Padre Pio, a man of a sort of second sight who could see beyond the surface of people; Therese from Lisieux, a young woman of intense religious experiences but also of practical wisdom; St Brigid whose history is shrouded in the mists of time and legend a woman of healing and close to the earth.

As a preface to one of his books published after his initial cancer diagnosis, Colm Keane quoted the African-American spiritual, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, as follows: “I looked at the Jordan, and what did I see/Coming to take me home?/A band of angels coming after me/Coming to take me home.”