Children's TV pioneer made indelible mark on programming
MÉADHBH CONWAY-PISKORSKI:Méadhbh Conway-Piskorski, who died on January 1st aged 83, was a television executive, educationalist, linguist and placenames scholar who was a pioneer of children’s and educational programmes at RTÉ from its establishment in 1962
She was responsible for the launch of many of the new station’s innovations and original programming in those areas, including Wanderly Wagon, Teilifís Scoile, Teilifís Feirme, Bosco, Siopa, and Let’s Draw with Bláithín.
Erudite, articulate, practical and independent of thought, she never stood on ceremony and preferred the modh díreach in her professional and personal dealings. That sometimes put at her at odds with the status quo and her superiors but her many former colleagues who attended her funeral in Dundrum last week remembered her strong loyalty to colleagues and to RTÉ, her kindness, her humour and her lack of any pretension.
Méadhbh Ní Chonmhidhe was born in Ballivor, Co Meath in 1929, the fourth of 11 children of Thomas and Margaret Conway, both of whom were primary school principals. Three of the children, triplet girls, died in infancy – the remaining eight comprised four boys and four girls. Her father had learned Irish in the local branch of Conradh na Gaeilge and it was a fully Irish-speaking household.
Ahead of his time in many respects, Thomas also believed that in 1940s Ireland his daughters should have every chance to attend university and have independent careers. Her mother, Margaret, was also a noted archaeologist and local historian and in latter years Méadhbh edited her voluminous writings into a number of collections, including the well-received book, Seanchas na Mídhe.
Méadhbh was a boarder at the all-Irish St Louis convent in Monaghan, a remarkably progressive school for its time with an eclectic curriculum not available to the vast majority of girls schools – including higher maths, orchestral work, languages and physics. In a 1993 interview on Cúrsaí she said the standard of education, and the dedication of the nuns, was extraordinary but she showed early signs of rebellion. “I kept the rules that made sense and broke the rules that made no sense,” she said.
Refused a Child of Mary award for two infractions – writing an essay that contained some communist sentiments and reading the Irish Press without permission – a classmate implored her to try again to be a Child of Mary otherwise her mother would be disappointed. Her response was typical: “To be quite honest with you, my mother wouldn’t give a damn.”