HOW time flies. Believe it or believe it not, 22 years have now elapsed since the bustling north Cork town of Millstreet, and by geographical extension, Killarney, became the very centre of Europe when an underused showjumping arena was transformed into a majestic complex impressive enough to host the 38th Eurovision Song Contest.
The eyes of Europe and beyond were trained on the nailbiting climax to the gala show when a last gasp douze points from the Malta jury saw Ireland’s Niamh Kavanagh – fresh from launching that year’s Killarney Looking Good Competition at a reception in Muckross Gardens – dramatically edge out UK queen of pop and raging favourite Sonia.
The unbridled celebrations weren’t confined to Millstreet, however, as several hundred people had packed every vantage point at the Gleneagle Hotel which was the official Eurovision Entertainment Club for the week-long build up to the big night.
Pop stars, television presenters, international media crews, musicians, talent scouts, drama queens, record company heads, Eurovision legends and other celebrities, too numerous to mention, made a beeline for the Killarney venue every night and the fun and frolics continued, at quite a pace, until the early hours.
It was a memorable if exhausting week for those that got caught up in the spirit of the occasion and it is still remembered, with great affection, by those lucky enough to have joined in the non-stop Euro party.
It would seem, however, that some of the researchers and social historians in RTÉ just might have partied a little too hard – certainly hard enough to cloud the memory banks – during that great knees-up in May 1993 if the State broadcaster’s documentary on the history of the Eurovision, screened this week, is to be used as a barometer.
Somebody, somewhere within the confines of Montrose, seems to have formed the impression that Millstreet was nothing more than a sleepy backwater prior to the arrival of the Eurovision with viewers told that “it didn’t seem the most promising venue.”
And that was only the start of it.
In the hour-long documentary, Ireland and the Eurovision: The Good, The Bad and The Mad, presenter, Angela Scanlon, breathlessly informed us that before May 1993, Millstreet was a town with no railway station, no hotels, no direct roads to Dublin or Cork and not even the showjumping arena was finished.
Imagine that. Don’t pay a bit of heed to the local historians and the official CIE records that will mislead you into thinking that the local train station was first opened way back in 1853. Sure what’s 140 years between friends and who’s counting anyway?
But, according to Angela’s documentary, along came the cavalry and, thankfully, an advance crew from RTÉ was dispatched to spend several months in Millstreet to sort everything out. Luckily, running water and electricity had been provided before their arrival.
The delighted presenter was happy to report that, by the time the crew had finished, roads were widened, coaches were commandeered and… wait for it… a railway station was built. Not an extra track – an entire railway station. And for that, we are sure, the people of Millstreet will be eternally grateful.
The advance promotional blurb for the documentary promised us that Angela would go backstage to find what really happens behind the power ballads, sequinned costumes and glitter cannons.
Just as well there are no plans for a follow-up. What likely Eurovision story would she come up with next? A singing turkey? Russian grannies? Or maybe even a bearded lady?
The good, the bad and the mad, indeed.