Documentary on One

A Programme For and About You

A radio agony aunt, her listeners and a play about their secret and tragic lives - For nearly two decades 'Dear Frankie' counselled the nation through their lives.

A Programme For and About You

Frankie Byrne in 1981  © RTÉ Stills Library
Frankie Byrne in 1981
© RTÉ Stills Library

"Welcome to Woman's Page, a programme for and about you."

For more than two decades, from 1963 to 1984, Frankie Byrne's Radio Éireann programme, colloquially-known as "Dear Frankie", united people all over Ireland.

They listened in kitchens, boarding schools and workplaces; alone, with family, colleagues and friends. Her audience listened in silence and in conversation.

Frankie gave no-nonsense relationship advice. She scolded letter-writers, was sympathetic, funny, scathing and sensitive.

However, the most important thing about the programme was that it featured people sharing problems. So, even if the problems weren't yours, you heard others being frank about their lives.

In an uptight Ireland, that made compelling radio.

In late 2010, Frankie's listeners were gathered together again, in theatres around Ireland. A new play had been written by Niamh Gleeson and starring Nuala Hayes: "Dear Frankie".

It told the story of Frankie's tragic and secretive life as well as recalling the radio programme.

After each performance, audience members, men and women, came to the cast and spoke of what Frankie's programme meant to them - where they listened, what their lives were like at the time, how much they valued the 15 minutes a week they spent in Frankie's company.

In this documentary, producer Colette Kinsella, hears from those listeners.

She weaves their stories in with Frank Sinatra songs (the only music Frankie Byrne played on the programme) and with listeners' letters, read by Nuala Hayes.

It's funny, wistful, infuriating - much like Frankie's own show.

And as Frankie would say, "It's a programme for and, maybe, about you."

Five Lamps Theatre Company and Nuala Hayes are on tour with "Dear Frankie", nationwide, from March 2012

Produced by Colette Kinsella with Ronan Kelly

First broadcast Saturday 22nd October @ 6pm.

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries.

Documentary maker: Colette Kinsella

Colette Kinsella

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Documentary maker: Ronan Kelly

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