Burren’s Favourite Son Praises “An Ideal Place”

POPULAR UTV personality, Frank Mitchell stated: “Burren is such a friendly locality, a community which makes everyone feel welcome.”

Star of “UTV Life” and “ The School Around the Corner,” this affable, self-confident `Weatherman’ constantly returns to his roots.

“Burren and its people have given me many reasons to smile. It was an ideal place to grow up, - such a hospitable, close-knit community.”

Referring to the rapid growth in the local population over recent years, Frank said: “When we were growing up, we knew everybody’s first name; now we don’t even know the family names. With its delightful setting, excellent facilities and amenities, it is much sought after, - a move I would recommend to anyone.”

Born Frank McClorey, his late father of the same name owned an electrical shop in Warrenpoint. Recalling his father’s motto: “Always entertain your customers,” Frank (junior) believes this was the inspiration behind his own cheerful, optimistic attitude, which comes across on the television screen.

“Broadcasting is a great job,” he commented. “It’s all down to confidence, the kind of self-assurance I gained from my father, my mother, - who lives in Burren, - and my two sisters, who have always been supportive.

“My favourite memories include working on my uncle and aunt’s farm, and also going to football matches with my dad.”

Frank McClorey (senior) had been the first chairman of Burren Youth Club, and a long-time member of its committee. And he was also on the St Mary’s GFC committee, when his son was in the Burren squad, which won Down, Ulster and All-Ireland Club Championship medals in the 80’s.

Incidentally, Frank’s uncle, the late John McClorey, who played for St Peter’s club in Warrenpoint, was the first Down player on an Ulster side, and the first Burren player to gain a Railway Cup medal.

And one of Frank’s cousins, Tommy McGovern, was captain of the 1986 All-Ireland Club Champions squad, - one of nine brothers, who played for the Burren club. Their mother, Mrs Eileen McGovern, was Frank’s aunt, as was her sister, Mrs Susan Rodgers.

As a boy at Carrick school, Frank was fascinated by pop music programmes on the radio. He loved listening to pirate radio stations, especially disc jockeys like Alan Freeman, also Terry Wogan on the BBC, while he was also impressed by Charles Mitchell on RTE, and William Hardcastle (BBC).

Converting his bedroom into a make-believe broadcasting studio, with turntable, tape-recorder, microphone and other equipment, he and his sisters, Teresa and Eleanor, had “great craic.” There was lots of music in the house, as they had been taught to read music at school by a teacher, Mrs Margaret Harty, who described Frank as “the life and soul of the class.”

As an 18-year-old, he joined Radio Carousel, which broadcast from the other side of Carlingford Lough, with lots of listeners in the South Down region. The boss, Hugh Hardy from Omeath, changed Frank’s surname to Mitchell, feeling it was more pop-friendly (Guy and Joanie Mitchell). He was also DJ at the Club Cheri in Warrenpoint.

Frank said: “I’ve stuck with Mitchell as a stage-name. It works wonderfully, in terms of privacy.”

Meanwhile, the future TV star had moved to St Colman’s College in Newry, where he played on the football sides, which won the Corn na n-Og, Rannafast and MacRory Cups, but beaten in the Hogan Cup Final at Croke Park. One of his team-mates was Greg Blaney, who went on to help Down win the Sam Maguire Cup twice.

From Violet Hill College, Frank became a student at St Mary’s teacher training college in Belfast. And, after graduating, he became a supply teacher at nearby St Mark’s High School, Warrenpoint, and St Joseph’s High School in Newry.

Next Page >

© Fabian Boyle 2001-2008