Derek Davis, who died in Dublin on 13 May at the age of 67 after a
brief illness, was a renowned Irish broadcaster. After working as a
freelance news reporter for the American network, ABC, during the
years of bitter civil conflict in Northern Ireland he joined the BBC
newsroom in Belfast. He later moved to Dublin and got a part-time job
with Radio Telefis Eireann as ‘night-town’ in the newsroom, keeping
in contact overnight with police and emergency services. But his
ability and natural talent as a broadcaster soon saw him promoted to
the staff as a reporter. He covered many important stories at home
and abroad and his good-humoured personality often turned hostile
contacts into reliable news sources.
If there was a funny aspect to an event Derek quickly found it. In
one news report he claimed to have discovered the biggest pothole in
Ireland but concluded by assuring road users that the local council
were looking in to it. He was among the first television newscasters
in RTE News. His popularity soon attracted programme makers and he
left the newsroom to work in light entertainment and current affairs.
He co-hosted the long-running afternoon programme, Live at Three and,
although of hefty size, on one occasion he allowed a female body
builder to throw him across the studio floor. He went on to make many
programmes about two of his favourite pursuits, good food and fishing.
His versatility was demonstrated when he stepped in at short notice
because of illness to replace the regular presenter, Gay Byrne, on the
demanding Rose of Tralee two-night programme. He also was called upon
to act as Master of Ceremonies during the visit to Ireland of the
American President, Ronald Reagan.
Derek Davis was born in Bangor, Co. Down and was a graduate of
Queen’s University, Belfast. He was a noted public speaker and
raconteur and at one stage considered pursuing a career in show
business. He had a good singing voice and occasionally appeared with
showbands in Ireland. Throughout his career he supplied many scripts
to internationally-known professional comedians. In retirement from
RTE he continued to broadcast regularly on several channels and,
indeed, was in studio talking about health issues a few days before
his untimely death.
Wesley Boyd, Head of News RTE, 1974-1990.