The 'Thomas Davis Lectures' series was launched in September 1953 with the aim of introducing the listening public to the best in Irish scholarship. Frank O'Connor talks about the art of the short story in a lecture from 1964.

As General Features Officer, Francis MacManus produced the series from 1953 to 1965.

A lecture series was suggested by Professor T.W. Moody as a counterpart to the Promenade Concerts, to show that "Radio Éireann was making as conspicuous a gesture to learning as it was to music". The title was named after the 19th century Protestant leader of the nationalist movement, Young Ireland, whose precept was "educate that you may be free".

In any case, the original title of the series, 'University of the Air' was not that popular. 'University on Air', proposed by Dr Myles Dillon of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, would have involved three uninterrupted hours of broadcasting weekly, over a period of 26 weeks, which was more than the radio schedule could give, and possibly more than the listeners might have accepted.

Instead, a series of six half-hourly broadcasts, transmitted on Sunday evenings, and focusing on early Irish society, was initiated. The first went out on 27 September.

Speakers on the series included Myles Dillon, D.A. Binchy and James Carney, all eminent Celtic Studies scholars. Since then, the lectures, singly or in series, have been broadcast each autumn or winter, and have covered a broad range of subjects from the arts and sciences. These lectures quickly became one of Radio Éireann's most important programme features and have been published in book form.

Listen here to an extract from Frank O'Connor talking about the art of short story writing from the 'Thomas Davis Lectures' series in 1964.