UCC honorary doctorate ‘a proper thrill’ for broadcaster Graham Norton
BBC journalist Fergal Keane also honoured for reports from conflict zones
Graham Norton after he received an honorary doctorate at University College Cork yesterday. “I was more surprised than excited when I heard but being here now it really is a proper thrill,” the broadcaster said. Photograph: Daragh McSweeney/Provision
Being Irish is definitely an advantage when working in British broadcasting, seven-time Bafta award winner, Graham Norton said yesterday as he returned to his native county to collect an honorary doctorate at University College Cork.
Norton, who was born in Bandon and spent two years studying English and French in UCC in the 1980s but left without completing his degree, was back at his alma mater to receive an honorary doctorate of arts for his achievements in broadcasting.
“I think it helps being Irish in Britain – Terry Wogan always says this – an Irish voice is a sort of classless voice,” he said. “You can talk to anyone, whereas if a British person starts speaking, people think, ‘Ooh, they’re richer than me, [or] they’re poorer than me’. It’s an advantage being Irish.”
Posing for photographs with fans on the sun-drenched quad in UCC, Norton said he was surprised when he learned that he was to be honoured by UCC as he had mixed memories of his time there in the early 1980s but it was great to return now to receive such an accolade.
“I was more surprised than excited when I heard but being here now it really is a proper thrill. It’s nice to come back here after 30 years . . . the first year here I loved, making lots of friends and meeting like-minded people, the second year was a law of diminishing returns.”
“This is different from the Baftas in that it isn’t about me doing my job . . . I suppose it’s a recognition of a career or a contribution. It’s as if you’re an ambassador for Cork or UCC – it’s more of a life achievement . . . obviously I’m too young to get it but it’s very welcome.”
Norton was one of four people to be conferred with honorary doctorates at UCC yesterday and joining him on the podium were Cork-born BBC broadcaster and journalist Fergal Keane, Cork businessman Dermot O’Mahoney and Irish-American judge Donald W Molloy.
Keane also spoke of his delight at being honoured by UCC, pointing out that he had missed out on going to university because he didn’t have a foreign language after failing French in his Leaving Cert and instead went straight into journalism.
“It’s customary for people on occasions like this to say it’s a huge honour but it really is for me. It’s a first honour of any kind that I’ve received in the Republic so fair dues to UCC for being the first and it’s great to be honoured in your home town.
“As somebody who didn’t go to university . . . I always sort of regretted that and would pass UCC with a kind of pang occasionally, so to come back and get an honorary doctorate, I couldn’t have imagined it when I left school back in 1979. It’s a great honour.”