Documentary on One

My Uncle Jack

When Jack Dowling was just 12, he began to escape from the brutal industrial school system in Ireland, walking away from Greenmount in Cork city . Little did Jack know that walking great distances would become a big part of his life.

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4.0/5 (137 ratings)

Documentary maker: Tim Desmond

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Documentary Maker: Madge O'Callaghan

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My Uncle Jack

Jack Dowling is Madge O’Callaghan’s uncle Jack.

Madge tells the story of Jack’s life from when he was placed in an orphanage in 1935 when he was just 5 years old to his life as an exile in Sheffield and an extraordinary career as an amateur race walker. When he was just 12, Jack began to escape from the brutal industrial school system in Ireland, walking away from Greenmount in Cork city. Little did Jack know then  that walking great distances would become a big part of his life. Like so many Irish men in the 1950’s , Jack made his way to the coal mines of the English midlands, settling in Sheffield where he married and raised a family .

The gruelling world of race walking became a passion for Jack; he went on to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records and holds several records for race walking ( including the record for Malin to Mizen head) . He became famous in France for his success in the Paris – Roubaix race walking challenge and walked in the Race of the Century , a 1,000 mile event in New York in 1988.Jack is also one of very few ‘centurions’ , race walkers who have completed more than 100 miles in a competition in under 24 hours.

Long since retired from race walking , Jack is a spritely octogenarian  who talks without rancour about his treatment in the industrial school system in Ireland. In the documentary , Madge wonders if circumstances were different for her uncle he may well have represented Ireland at the highest level in athletics and could have presaged the success of Ireland’s Olympic medal winning race walkers of recent decades .

Produced by Madge O'Callaghan. 

Production supervision  Tim Desmond.

Sound supervision Mark McGrath.

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

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