Cork radio host: My listeners are like friends

This month she celebrated three decades on Cork’s airwaves. CHRIS DUNNE caught up with Patricia Messinger to talk about her successful radio career and family life
Cork radio host: My listeners are like friends

Patricia Messinger, celebrating 30 years on her 10am to 1pm show on C103.

GOOD company is always welcome in good times and in bad times. When people feel lonely at times, a friend’s presence can be a life line.

Patricia Messinger’s mellow voice has become a familiar one for three decades to listeners all over Cork who tune into her for lively interviews, advice, and for her scintillating company.

“I love broadcasting on radio so much; I’d have done it for free,” says Patricia, 58, and mum to Marsha and David.

A native of Clonmel who is celebrating 30 years on her 10am to 1pm time slot on C103, she was bitten by the airwaves bug as a young girl knowing radio was her dream job — her life blood.

“We broadcast to a lot of rural areas and we have a lot of listeners who grew up with us. During the pandemic a lot of cocooners found the situation in lockdown incredibly difficult,” says Patricia, who has extended family living across Cork city and county.

“My listeners are like family. In rural areas, there may be no broadband. People have told me that in lots of cases I am often the only human voice they hear. That is incredibly sad.”

Patricia continued: “One lady wrote to me years ago and she said when I say ‘Good Morning’ at the start of my programme; she answers back ‘Good Morning’. I find that very touching.”

Patricia, finding her tribe on radio, found her husband Brendan there too.

Radio also brought her to Belarus where she met a little girl called Marsha who would later become her daughter.

Patricia is a true communicator.

“When I was about 12, RTÉ came to the school in Clonmel looking for chatty kids in 6th class,” says Patricia.

They didn’t have to look far.

“Four of us were picked to talk to the presenter.”

Patricia was a natural chatterbox.

“A few of us went shy. But I talked for an hour!”

And she hasn’t stopped talking since!

“It went out on radio and I remember the reaction. People were stopping me on the street commenting on the programme. I was immediately bitten by the radio bug. TV never interested me,” says Patricia the fourth eldest of five children.

Patricia says radio has always been part of her life.
Patricia says radio has always been part of her life.

Radio was a staple in the Messinger household.

“I just love radio. It was always on in our house. When I came home from school for my dinner at 1pm every day, the radio was always on. The TV was only switched on at night.”

After leaving school, it looked like accountancy might beckon as a career. Instead she began her career on pirate radio in CBC where the airwaves beckoned.

“I showed a keen interest and I started training, learning on the job. Pirate radio was a fantastic training ground, you did talk, you were the DJ, you did sport.”

CBC radio provided a great sounding board for Patricia, with role models like Vincent Hanley willing to offer valuable advice to her.

“I loved Vincent,” says Patricia. “He was our hero.”

Was radio a man’s world back in the day?

“Funnily enough, in Clonmel it wasn’t,” says Patricia.

“My station manager was Peg Clancy and Patricia Cantrell was broadcasting on air in the afternoon. We became three strong friends.”

Was she ever nervous on air?

“I’d visualise the woman at home in the kitchen washing up at the sink or peeling potatoes. And I’d talk to her.”

She learned her craft from the best.

“That was a tip I picked up from Gay Bryne.”

Patricia, honing her skills in her home town, was picked out as a good prospect for C103.

“I was head-hunted for a talk show in the morning!” Patricia recalls.

Was she chuffed?

“I was to be sure.”

The package had to be negotiated.

“Brendan worked with me in CBC radio in Clonmel. He had to come to Cork with me too! One couldn’t go without the other.”

Patricia created her niche in C103, coming to live in Mallow with Brendan.

Having meaningful conversations is part of her package. Does she ever get riled about social issues?

“I remember being particularly angry about the Aras Attracta scandal in Co. Mayo that came to light, revealing troubling revelations of the abuse of people with intellectual disabilities,” says Patricia.

“I found the programme very disturbing and when a woman rang in very upset who was working at the home having witnessed cruelty towards a client, I was livid. It was one of those moments where I wanted to rip the head off that cruel abuser in Áras Attracta. I thought of my own loved ones and I thought of my child. Those heart-felt stories when I feel the pain stay with me.”

Because Patricia is so familiar with her listeners. she looks on them as old friends and she shares personal snippets of her life with them.

“I went to Belarus with the Chernobyl Children’s Project to report on a local building group who were working in the area.”

Patricia Messinger with daughter Marsha.
Patricia Messinger with daughter Marsha.

She found love there.

“I ended up going to the orphanages. Marsha was in the first one we visited. She was eight but she was tiny at the time. The first clothes I bought her were 18 months to two years.”

Marsha, now 27, is deaf-blind. Patricia brought her back to Ireland on a medical visa.

“We did the adoption backwards. I shared our journey with my listeners.”

Does it seem like 30 years since Patricia breezed onto the airwaves?

“It only seems like yesterday,” she says.

“I am so lucky to be working in my dream job. I won’t be hanging up my head-phones any time soon. I think Irish people love radio.”

Patricia recalls a wonderful highlight in her career when she won the Best Current Affairs Show at the PPI awards in 2015.

“Pat Kenny was up for that award too,” says Patricia. “So that was a big deal!”

Meeting Donny Osmond was a big deal too.

“He was coming to Belfast and the station persuaded him Cork wasn’t that far from Belfast. I got to interview Donny who was my hero growing up.”

Patricia likes living in Mallow, now her home for 28 years. Marsha likes living there too.

“We built on an extension for Marsha, who was 27 in May, even though she’ll always be 10.”

Her mum is her lifeline.

“I do everything for her!” says Patricia smiling.

Lockdown suits her too!

“She is happy and content. Before the pandemic, Marsha came everywhere with us. She likes to travel.”

If Patricia wasn’t living the dream, doing her dream job, what would she like to do?

“I’d like to work in advocacy on a voluntary basis, seeking to ensure that all people in society are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them. Sometimes people don’t shout loud enough.”

Patricia is often that voice on radio for people.

“I like to think I am a good listener and open to everyone’s point of view.”

She loves the feedback she gets from loyal listeners.

“The letters I get from people are great, often telling me that their mum and dad listen to me too. And over the years, the kindness of people always amazes me.

“In Cork, we are blessed people are so decent, always supporting worthy causes.”

Does Patricia, who lives for her family and her job, have any hobbies?

“Life is my hobby.”

Patricia Messinger presents Cork Today on c103 discussing current affairs in Cork and beyond every weekday from 10am-1pm.

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