Country boy with a great big heart

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Reporter:

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Tommy Rosney, ‘The Country Boy’ is better known across the north-west for his excellent taste in country music than for the tireless work he carries out on behalf of charities. The Sligo native has proven his ability to ensnare huge audiences to his popular Highland Radio country show but carries out his charity work beyond the media glare. Tommy’s association with country music is closely associated with his youth in Sligo but it didn’t trully come to fruition until he moved to the Cathedral town.

Tommy Rosney, ‘The Country Boy’ is better known across the north-west for his excellent taste in country music than for the tireless work he carries out on behalf of charities. The Sligo native has proven his ability to ensnare huge audiences to his popular Highland Radio country show but carries out his charity work beyond the media glare. Tommy’s association with country music is closely associated with his youth in Sligo but it didn’t trully come to fruition until he moved to the Cathedral town.

On Friday night last, Tommy conducted an all night broadcast in a bid to raise money for ‘Relay for Life’ charity event. For many years, Tommy has given his time to charities and organisations who have come to him seeking his help and support. Much of his work is seldom reported or known to the greater public.

Tommy began his career as a Disk Jockey (DJ) in pirate radio. He has lived in Letterkenny since 1975 to work in Best’s Supermarket which is where the old Dunnes Stores is at present. “I am originally from Sligo but moved to Letterkenny in 1975 in Best’s Supermarket. It changed to Dunnes Stores in 1979,” he recalled.

His memories of his days in pirate radio are fond, at the time pirate radio was flourishing throughout the country and Donegal was no different embracing the alternate voices and views on the airwaves.

At the time Letterkenny had its own station which was established under the stewardship of Jerome Keeney, who was well known in music circles in Letterkenny and Richard Crowley, then a reporter for the Derry Journal and a man who went on to become very prominent in RTÉ. The economics of the station failed to work and the station closed. However, by that time Tommy had well and truly established himself as a man very much affiliated with the world of country music.

In 1986, Donegal Community Radio hit the airwaves from an engine room above the former ‘Funland’ premises in Letterkenny and Tommy became one of their star presenters. This venture was that of Paddy Simpson from Carndonagh and Bobby McDaid of Lifford later took charge. Tommy hosted six show per week from 1986 to 1989 and his audience and fan base increased each and every year that his shows were being broadcast. When Highland radio hit the airwaves in 1990 it was natural that Tommy would be much sought after. He now broadcasts three shows a week with the popular station much to everyone’s delight. Tommy has amassed a great knowledge of all the major country and western artists both on the national and international front. His website shows him standing side by side with many of the great gods of country.

Married to his wonderful wife Margo, they have three children, Louise, Dom and Anita. “I thought it was worth doing the all night broadcast because it is a very worthwhile charity. An aunt of mine died last year from breast cancer and that would be one of the reasons that I feel that this charity is so important.

The Letterkenny radio veteran believes that if you are known locally and if someone comes to you looking for help with a charity you should do your best to oblige. “If you do a good deed, I believe that it comes back to you twofold. I would do these charity events without publicity but there are times that you need to generate publicity to attract attention to the charity in order to raise money,” he said.

When Tommy turned 50 rather than have a small party for close friends and family he opened the invitation up to everyone and rather than anyone giving him a present, he asked him to make a donation to charity.

“When I turned 50 I raised around thirteen thousand euro for St. Bernadette’s School in Letterkenny. Some of the money also went to the arts club at the time as well. People were so generous and it was great to be able to give the money to charity. I think that if you have a profile in the community you should use it as best you can for those who organisations and charities that need help and support. It costs nothing to help. I remember once, I was asked to open a festival. After the festival was opened I was asked how much I would like to get paid. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t expect to get paid, I was honoured that they wanted me to open the festival. To me it was a privilege, I didn’t expect anything,” he said.

In recent days, Tommy spent long hours standing down in Dunnes Stores, the shop he began to work in when he first moved to the Cathedral town raising money for charity. He knew everyone who approached him and thanked them from the bottom of his heart for all their generosity, help and support. “If you can do a good turn for somebody, why wouldn’t you,” he said.

If you would like to sponsor him you can do so by going to his Facebook page and clicking on ‘my charity’ and follow the instructions. You can also pay into the ‘Relay for Life’ account at AIB acc number 32560095 sort code 931098, or you can hand your donation to Tommy.