LIFE Mary Fitzgerald: The kids would stand around the piano and ‘feel’ the music Before wielding pipe cleaners, egg cartons and empty toilet rolls on classic RTE children’s series How Do You Do? in the 1980s, Mary Fitzgerald taught deaf youngsters — but she soon found she had to be creative during conversation. Interview by Larissa Nolan Sunday June 28 2020, The Sunday Times

I started out life as a primary school teacher and my first job was at Loreto College in Dublin’s Foxrock. I was only about 20 — so young that most of the parents thought I was someone from the senior school. I taught children arts and crafts. Back then, there wasn’t much credence given to learning to be creative and use your imagination, but now people see the great value in it.

I then answered an advertisement to work for St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in Cabra. I went along, did the interview, and got accepted. They tried me out for a while — had a look at me to see if I was suitable to be trained up — then sent me to University College Dublin to study as a teacher for the deaf.

I knew nothing about deaf children, nor had I ever known or met a person who was deaf or hard of hearing. What appealed to me was the challenge. It was such a complete change.

The average class size in Dublin primary schools at the time was 30 to 40 children, but at St Mary’s I had just six or seven. It meant that I could give them hands-on care and they had my full attention. At that time the method was to teach deaf children to lip-read and use their voices. We didn’t teach sign language: the focus was on helping them to live in the hearing world. That focus has since changed, with the deaf community saying that signing is their natural first language.

In the class, we sat at a big horseshoe-shaped desk, all of us plugged into the same system, with hearing aids, and I had a microphone. The set-up would have been very suitable for social distancing: all the children were about two metres apart and the classrooms were big and airy, with plenty of room and good spaces between people.

The children were very proficient at lip-reading. If another teacher came in to see if I was going for a drink after work, or for a quick coffee, we would have to turn our backs to talk or else they would know what we were saying. When the Prince of Wales married Diana in 1981 and the wedding was shown on TV, they were all able to tell me what the royal family had been saying on the balcony. They were great for gossip — they knew exactly what was happening in school, and to whom.

We would do reading, writing and maths: the ultimate aim was that they would go on to college and the same career roles as hearing students. The biggest difference between teaching hearing and non-hearing children was that you would go into a classroom and it would be silent. There’s always a level of chat in classrooms, but in a deaf class, it is the silence you notice first of all. You are usually encouraging children to keep quiet — in a deaf classroom you’re telling them to talk.

I remember all my students. One of them, Olive, was in a car accident when she was two years old, and lost her hearing as a result. She qualified as a chartered accountant. I was thrilled at that news.

Fitzgerald on the set of children’s craft show How Do You Do in 1990

RTÉ ARCHIVE

Music was a challenge. It is difficult to teach it to deaf children. I worked with a music teacher and we would bring them into a hall, play a song on the piano, and they would all stand around it and feel the music. It was learning music through vibrations; the different vibrations came up their arms and would give them an idea of what the notes were.

I only taught them one song in the whole year and that was a long process — a huge achievement. They had to learn the words and put a sound to it. The song I taught them was The Creepy Crawly Caterpillar.

When RTE offered me an audition for a slot on youth programme Anything Goes, I said I could do arts-and-crafts slots and stories. One of the tasks was to sing a song for under-10s, and illustrate it. It was a no-brainer for me. I had been doing The Creepy Crawly Caterpillar for a year and had made a huge green caterpillar in the classroom, as well as hats for all the kids. I replicated that for RTE and I got the job.

I tried over the years to get children’s programming in RTE to include deaf kids. When I moved on to my own show, How Do You Do? [the children’s make-and-do series appeared on the channel during the late 1980s and early 1990s and some episodes are currently being re-run on RTE Player], I managed to adapt some of it for deaf children. We did drama and mime and subtitled the programme. They were the first — and possibly only — children’s programmes made specifically for deaf children by RTE.

How Do You Do? is on RTE Player

How did she do that? Life turns into one big reinvention for Mary

Former RTE star Mary Fitzgerald is bringing nostalgia back to our screens with the return of her iconic children’s show How Do You Do- a return for a broadcaster who has been the queen of reinvention in her own life.

She’s back: Now you can relive the magic of making any number of wonderful things from papier-mache and pipe cleaners with children’s TV icon Mary Fitzgerald with 30-year-old episodes of ‘How Do You Do’ on the RTE Player. Photo: Mark Condren

She became one of the nation’s best-loved children’s presenters on How Do You Do – and now episodes are available on the RTE Player after a more than 30-year hiatus. This is allowing a new generation to discover the joys of papier-mache and pipe cleaners.

The Kilkenny presenter hasn’t been idle since leaving the small screen as she switched gears into PR to bring Ladies Day to Irish racing, before training as a barrister in her 50s.

Back in the 1980s she achieved popstar levels of fame when she went from being a primary school teacher for deaf children to fronting Anything Goes, one of the highest rated programmes on television.

“It had huge ratings. It was two-channel land. We were like popstars then, I hate to say that, it sounds a bit egotistical, but we led the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin.

“I remember going to a restaurant in Dingle and the restaurant couldn’t serve people because so many people were queuing outside the door because they knew I was inside. It was mad.”

It was a baptism of fire for the young teacher who had sent a letter to Montrose offering her services if the station decided to go for educational TV.

“I got no training. I rocked up to RTE, I’d one rehearsal on a Saturday evening and the following week I was live on television I didn’t know which cameras I was supposed to look at.

“And there was no autocue. You had to learn all your lines.”

During the heydays of the 1980s, the former teacher would regularly have the likes of U2 and Thin Lizzy coming into the studio to film live slots on Anything Goes.

“We met them all – Boy George, Toyah Wilcox, Bono, they all came in.

“Bono and those were beginning to take off and they would come in and be very polite and get their photo taken with you, but they had managers with them. They were sort of wheeled in and out.”

Phil Lynott stands out in her memory.

“I was quite a nervous presenter and he gave me great confidence, saying ‘keep doing it and you’ll get better every week’.

“He was brilliant, someone like him at the time who was a big star to take time to talk to me, I was a 22-year-old, I just remember him being very encouraging. Boy George was another person who was great fun.”

Roald Dahl wrote her a letter. He was impressed when she asked him about the little-known fact that he had written a Bond movie script. “He sent me a lovely letter which I still have.”

She is delighted to see a new generation of children learning how to get to grips with homemade kites and sock puppets.

“When Anything Goes ended, I got my own series How Do You Do which is now back on the RTE Player.

“I brought out two books. That year was 1990 and Gay Byrne’s autobiography was the No. 1 bestselling book and I was No. 2.”

Her penchant for arts and crafts on screen grew out of her brief teaching career.

She said: “I wrote into RTE and said if you’re ever doing educational type programmes, I’d love to be considered as a researcher.

“Out of the blue I got a letter to audition for Anything Goes.”

After more than a decade of children’s shows, she landed her dream show, but Ireland’s astounding run in Eurovision in the 1990s essentially put the death knell on that show being renewed for a second season.

“My real interest was in fine art and antiques and I did a show called Treasure Ireland.

“It was kind of like an Antique Roadshow-cum-Bargain Hunt, but Ireland kept winning the Eurovision during those years, so any money went into staging the Eurovision.

“So, as they say What’s Another Year for Johnny Logan and What’s Another Career where I’m concerned.

“I was dying to do adult programmes but because in a way I got typecast as a young people’s presenter, I felt it was time to do something different.”

Her next reinvention couldn’t have been further away from her children’s TV shows as she decided to answer an ad for a job as a PR manager for the Irish Horse Racing Authority which is now known as Horse Racing Ireland

“My job was to get more people to go racing as then it was very much a male-orientated sport.

“At that time, I was actually the person who brought in – whether it’s a good or bad thing at this stage – the Best Dressed Lady competitions.

“Now there is best dressed men, best dressed children, best dressed family. I love fashion and style.”

After six years, when the Horse Racing Authority moved to Kildare, she decided to change careers again to accommodate raising her young daughter, Caroline, in Dublin

“Following on from that I set up my own PR and event company which I’m still running.”

But in the meantime, there was a stop-off at law school to become a barrister.

“I was in my 50s, I actually wasn’t the oldest in the class, there were people in their 60s and 70s and one guy even in his 80s, but the majority were 25 upwards.

“I just have one daughter, Caroline, and my daughter grew up and I just felt I wasn’t going to just sit at home and be one of those ladies who lunches.

“I appeared in the District Court right up to the Supreme Court, doing mainly commercial and civil law.

“I loved it but it’s hard to make a living because when you’re starting later in life, it just takes time to build up a practice.”

She also runs a Horses for Courses course which gives people a complete A to Z on the horseracing industry along with her PR and events company.

And she is still recognised all the time by a whole generation who grew up watching her brand of old-fashioned, wholesome fun.

“The children who used to watch me are now adults.

“On nights out, say in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, especially around Christmas, people send over drinks saying thanks for making my childhood a special place or that they have fond memories.”

‘How Do You Do’ is now available on the RTE Player.

Article written by Lynne Kelleher and published in the Sunday Independent, 14 June 2020

Carl Mullan & Donncha O’Callaghan go head to head in crafting challenge

Bored in the house and you’re in the house bored? Well, get ready to be inspired because it’s Arts and Crafts Week on RTÉ Player, and with that comes a brand new series of videos from ‘Craft Queen’ Mary Fitzgerald.

Many will remember Mary from How do you do?a children’s series that had kids across Ireland making everything from space ships to dolls’ houses using empty toilet rolls and egg cartons.

To celebrate the show landing on RTÉ Player, Mary will be challenging some grown-ups to compete in ‘Get Crafty’ challenges. Today, Carl Mullan will be up against his rival, sporting legend, Donncha O’Callaghan as the two attempt to make kites over Zoom.

Want to play along at home? Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A black sack
  • Some plastic shopping bags
  • 2 sticks of equal length (garden sticks or bamboo sticks – approximately 2 feet long)
  • Twine
  • Glue/Sellotape
  • Scissors

Here’s what to do:

  1. Begin by cutting the end off the closed side of the bin bag.
  2. Open up the bag and fold it in half (lengthways).
  3. Fold one corner across so that it meets the other side of the bag and cut off the triangle that this fold creates.
  4. Cut another triangle, this time from the bottom and working your way up to  where you first started cutting the first triangle.
  5. Open the bag up and you should be left with the rough shape of your kite. There’ll be 2 separate pieces that are exactly the same. You can take away one of them and use it to make a second kite later.
  6. Glue or sellotape your sticks to the back of the kite, leaving a wing at either side.
  7. Sellotape a piece of string to the back of each wing and tie them in the middle.
  8. Decorate the front as you please (use lightweight items like shopping bags or paper).
  9. Sellotape another piece of string approximately 2 feet long to the bottom of the kite to create your tail. Decorate with light plastic bows made from offcuts of your plastic bags.
  10. To attach the string to fly your kite, tie the loose end of a long ball of string/twine to the string attached to your wings.

How Do You Do? Returns to TV screens

Ahead of the return to TV this week of the iconic TV programme How Do You Do? with Mary FitzGerald, Mary joins Donnacha O’Callaghan the former rugby player and TV pundit & Carl Mullan for some make & do fun.

3 classic episodes are now on the RTE Player for the first time. Enjoy!

https://www.rte.ie/player/series/how-do-you-do/SI0000006975?epguid=PL000004005

There 3 episodes are as follows

Snake Draught stopper made from old socks 

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to transform odd socks into a colourful snake draft stopper using bits and pieces from around the house.

https://www.rte.ie/player/series/how-do-you-do/SI0000006975?epguid=PL000004005

Felt Puppets

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to make simple and colourful puppets with the help of her special puppet friends Francis and Schillaci, using felt, ping pong balls, egg cartons, cardboard and other bits and pieces from around the house. 

https://www.rte.ie/player/series/how-do-you-do/SI0000006975?epguid=PL000004008

Papier-mâché fruit and veg 

Mary FitzGerald demonstrates how to make papier-mâché fruit and vegetables using old newspapers, coloured paper, wall paper paste, paints and balloons.

https://www.rte.ie/player/series/how-do-you-do/SI0000006975?epguid=PL000004009

‘Make and Do’ – How to make and use a face covering

From Monday, Ireland will slowly begin to waken from its slumber, and things will start to look a little different.

The Government has advised that from 18 May people should wear cloth face coverings, in certain places, like in shops and on public transport.

Mary FitzGerald explains how to make your own face mask for RTÉ News.

“The materials you need are two plain pieces of cotton, you can use a t-shirt or a pillow case. You need two pieces of elastic to go around your ears around 15 centimetres long, a needle and thread and a scissors,” says TV ‘Make and Do’ legend Mary Fitzgerald.

Mary will be a familiar face to many, from RTÉ’s ‘How Do You Do?’ in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Mary Fitzgerald pictured hosting How Do You Do? (Pic: RTÉ Stills Library)

Following the guidelines from Government, Ms Fitzgerald talked us through how to make your own face coverings at home, in “six simple steps”.

“It takes about half an hour when you’re doing it from start to finish at home, but the stages are very simple,” she says. 

“The first thing you do is keep your two pieces of cotton together. Fold them over about 6mm on the long sides.”

“Then you get your needle and thread, and very carefully do a hemming stitch all along that line.”

Once you’ve done that, she says the next step is to fold in the shorter sides by about 2cm.  

The next stage is to get your elastic and thread it through the short sides. 

“A tip is to get your elastic and thread it through with a safety pin. The last stage is to scrunch it all up together and tie a knot”.

This can then be tidied up by pushing the knot back inside the material, to hide the elastic. 

“It’s a very simple face covering to make for yourself at home. I would advise people to make a couple of them. If you have an old pillow case you could make at least six of them,” she says. 

Ms Fitzgerald says that when people are watching television or having a quiet moment, they could take some time to make these homemade face coverings.

“Horses for Courses” Spring 2021

Due to the success of “Horses for Courses”, this unique Adult Education evening course on horseracing returns for the Spring 2021. Its runs from Monday 15th February until Monday 22nd March 2021 at 7.30pm in the Talbot Hotel, Stillorgan, Dublin.

Book Now https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/horses-for-courses-course-on-horseracing-tickets-104197936834

Learn everything there is to know about horseracing including Breeders, Trainers, Owners, Jockeys, Racegoers, Betting, Race Course Management, Role of Horse Racing Ireland, Role of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Racing Media, Sponsorship and much more!

Lecturers include celebrated National Hunt and Flat Jockeys and Trainers as well as Brian Kavanagh, CEO, Horse Racing Ireland, Denis Egan, CEO, Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Keith Rowe, Director R.A.C.E., Charles O’Neill, CEO, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, Leo Powell, Editor, The Irish Field, Pat Keogh, Manager, Curragh Racecourse, Robert Hall, RTE TV Racing Commentator and many more!

The course starts Monday 15th February at 7.30pm. It runs for six weeks on the following dates;

  1. Monday, 15th February 2021
  2. Monday, 22nd February 2021
  3. Monday, 01st March 2021
  4. Monday, 08th March 2021
  5. Monday, 15th March 2021
  6. Monday, 22nd March 2021


Course Fee
General Admission = €190.00

It includes

  • Six weeks of lectures 
  • a FREE day at the races
  • a trip to the Irish National Stud 
  • Weekly draws for great racing spot prizes

To book a place on this popular horseracing course visit our booking page on eventbrite. https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/horses-for-courses-course-on-horseracing-tickets-104197936834

People who attended the last course had this to say;

Many thanks for an excellent course that far exceeded my expectations. Thank you for organising it and for getting such an inspirational group of speakers to address us.”

 “Big thank you for a very professional and fun run course”

 “Learned so much about horses and breeding. Enjoyed it very much, there is something for everyone in this course”

 “Very enjoyable course, very informative, really enjoyed the jockeys and trainers talks”

“Brilliant Course, really enjoyed it, great insight into the Irish Racing scene”

Review of this Course in The Irish Field. https://www.theirishfield.ie/something-to-suit-all-levels-of-interest-541525/

Don’t miss out. Places book up fast!

Further information contact: Mary FitzGerald
Course Director, “Horses for Courses”
T: 01-678 7916 
E: info@maryfitzgeraldpr.ie

Return of Mary FitzGerald’s iconic art and craft TV programmes to RTE Player

Mary FitzGerald’s iconic art and craft TV programmes, “How do you do?” originally broadcast to children in the 80’s and 90’s are to return to the RTE Player on Monday 25th May 2020 to entertain both parents and children in these unprecedented times”.

As parents and their children are now at home daily, Mary will introduce a new generation of children to the joys of art and craft to keep them busy and entertained in these coronavirus times. See www.rte.ie for further details. http://rte.ie/player

A DVD of 12 of the best “How do you do?” art and craft programmes is also available to purchase in the shop for €10.

“By Imagination We Live”

Irish Humanities Alliance (IHA) Strategic Plan for the Humanities 2020-2030

The Irish Humanities Alliance (IHA), launched their Strategic Plan 2020-2030, “By Imagination We Live,” a significant, all-island vision for the humanities, on Wednesday, 6th November 2019 in the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin.
Dame Marina Warner, a renowned English Novelist, Short Story Writer, Historian, Mythographer and Professor of English and Creative Writing, Birkbeck, University of London, did the official launch.

The document is the outcome of extensive and in-depth consultation with IHA member institutions, the 10 universities in Ireland and Northern Ireland and the Royal Irish Academy.

Launching this visionary Plan, Dame Marina Warner said; “I am delighted to have been asked to launch the IHA Strategic Plan for the humanities “By Imagination We Live”. As someone who values the contribution of the humanities to cultural life, universities and society at large, I congratulate all those involved in putting together this clear, all-Ireland vision for the humanities. We all need to use our imagination, especially now in this technological age. The IHA Strategic Plan places great value on the contribution that humanities disciplines can make in addressing
the most pressing social, political, cultural, technological, and environmental issues of the 21st century”

Dr. Mel Farrell, Director, IHA, said “Since its creation in 2013, the IHA has worked to promote the value of humanities research and scholarship in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Humanities disciplines ranging from geography, literature, modern languages and history in understanding the human experience through history, culture and
language. By imagination we live demonstrates and articulates the value and diversity of the established and emerging humanities disciplines, and the critical role they play in understanding the human experience through history, culture and language”.
With the development of this new, IHA Strategic Plan 2020-2030, there is now a clear path forward for all Higher Education Institutions in Ireland and Northern Ireland to put the humanities centre stage in the education of its people. See full details of “By Imagination We Live” on www.irishhumanities.com

Further information contact:
Mary FitzGerald
PR Consultant-Irish Humanities Alliance
Mary FitzGerald Public Relations
T: 01-6787916. M: 086-2520181
E: info@maryfitzgeraldpr.ie

And

Dr. Mel Farrell
Director
Irish Humanities Alliance
www.irishhumanities.com