Jude Collins

Friday, 1 July 2011

David Dunseith - the death of a good man

You kind of miss David Dunseith, don’t you?  When he ended (or was ended) from his place as presenter of Talkback on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidió Ulaidh, it was like a mini-death – that time of the day no longer had his cheerful, gently-cynical air-presence to light it up.  As I write I’m listening to a former head of the BBC in Belfast speaking of him and the word he’s emphasizing is “fairness”.   Yes indeed. Time and again over the years I’ve heard other people use the same word of him: he was uniquely free from bias.

He was a former RUC man – something that would have surprised a lot of his listeners, for whatever  feelings he may have had towards that organization, they played no part in his role as moderator of political discussions.  And he was always an active chairman.  His questioning technique broke a lot of the rules. Instead  of firing questions one at a time, he liked to deliver them in threes, fours, fives. I once criticized him in a column for this habit;  the next two or three times I passed him in the corridors of the BBC, there was a frisson of indignation coming off him, although he said nothing. But because he was a big man in several senses, he moved past it and was his old self in a short time.  In retrospect, I can see he was right and I was wrong. If he’d been a poor question-asker, he wouldn’t have enjoyed the success he did.

I last saw him, what, about six weeks ago, in the BBC. I was about to go on air and he was passing through - looking, I thought, paler and thinner than usual. I briefly considered telling him how sorry I was to hear of his wife's death last year but there wasn't time before the red light went on. Maybe I'd catch him after, I thought, but when I emerged from the studio he was gone.  I didn't bother following up and now when it's too late,  I wish I had. 

As a man he was positive and cheerful, and it was infectious. After listening to him for ten minutes, you felt that yes, life was a joyful thing,  it was worth embracing, it was good to laugh at, it merited our love. He merited our love as well; that’s why we’ll go on missing him. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis  - May he rest in peace.


  1. the king is dead, long live the king.

  2. Go raibh maith agaibh, Malachi + AM

  3. A warm and fitting tribute to a decent man well done Jude.

  4. Touching and appropriate. David Dunseith was the greatest of all broadcasters. He was fair but firm and asked relevant questions. He brought all sides together during the most difficult times during the troubles. A real tragedy. Talkback by the way is now not worth listening to.