“Free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last,” exclaimed RTE celebrity Ryan ‘the Tubs’ Tubridy after receiving the freedom of Clifden and Connemara at the weekend.
The arrival of the Late Late Show and radio presenter on Saturday for a ceremony at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel in Clifden attracted much attention from locals, fans, and ethusiatic banner makers with one amusing sign sporting ‘Tubridy for president’. Rest assured, running for president is not on the agenda, yet, for Mr Tubridy, however a stint at sheep shepherding is an appealing notion.
“I will be gathering my sheep and bringing my flock to the commonage of Clifden. From chat show host to shepherd in two easy steps,” says Mr Tubridy while we discuss the many advantages of being granted the freedom of Clifden and Connemara.
Not only was Mr Tubridy presented with a fancy golden key by the Connemara Chamber of Commerce but he was granted many other benefits including free grazing rights on the commonage of Clifden, as well free car parking, haircuts for him and his future grandchildren, free Roundstone turf, potatoes from Dan O’Hara’s homestead, and free anchorage rights for life on Buttermilk Lake.
“I believe there may also be a bar stool where I can rest my over worked being and I will get free shoelaces from Stanleys for life, so I will be well groomed by the time the Late Late Show starts back,” says Mr Tubridy who adds that he is looking forward to sporting a “Clifden look”.
According to the Connemara Chamber, Mr Tubridy was chosen as a worthy recipient of the golden key due to his continual support and promotion of the area over the years, including a recent RTE Radio 1 show from Inishbofin as well as other programmes from Leenane and from Clifden. The president of the Connemara Chamber Brian Hughes bestowed Mr Tubridy with the golden key and the Freedom of Connemara scroll during the ceremony last Saturday night at the Abbeyglen Castle Hotel where invited guests were treated to a champagne reception and canapés. The presentation was followed by a trip around the town of Clifden by horse and trap led by bagpipes, a trip which gave the RTE star much joy.
Describing the experience and his love for Connemara, Mr Tubridy said: “It was a great bit of fun, it was bizarre, brilliant. It is something I will never forget. It meant a lot to me, mostly because of my connections with Connemara. I have family connections in Carraroe, Bealadangan, Ballinahown, I have great memories of the west and as an adult I have kept going back. I’m an addict of the west.
“I just love going back to Spiddal, Roundstone, and particularly Clifden. I love the air, the peat filled air, and of course the Guinness which always seems more creamy and tastes better. When you hit Oughterard you get the first slice of Connemara. I love taking a walk, blowing away the cobwebs. At the Abbeyglen Hotel there is always so much craic,” said Mr Tubridy who added that co-manager Brian Hughes, a second cousin, first enticed him down for a visit to the hotel 15 years ago.
“He [Brian] called the Gerry Ryan Show, I was a runner there at the time. He wanted to get Gerry down so I went along and it was great old fun,” said Mr Tubridy who is currently preparing for his eight week stint on BBC’s Radio 2, sitting in for Graham Norton, with the first show being broadcast this coming Saturday. However, his thoughts are always with the Late Late Show and with the chance to head back west as soon as possible.
“I’m gearing up for Radio 2, I’m very nervous about it. It is one of the biggest challenges I have taken on. I also have the first Late Late butterflies in my stomach so I will be looking forward to coming back to the west in August for a bit of R&R.”