Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Radio silence as Smith moves on

The Irish radio world is all the poorer as Lilian Smyth hosts her final Late Date

No more Late Dates for Lilian Smith

Fri, Oct 4, 2013, 09:54


Another one bites the dust. Last Sunday night, without any fuss or fanfare, Lilian Smith hosted her final Late Date on RTE Radio One.

Coming up on 2am, she played Luke Kelly’s “The Night Visiting Song”, hung up her headphones in RTE Cork’s studios and walked out into the still of the city night.

For those of us who appreciate the majesty of late-night radio, Smith was a treasure. She has a superb set of ears when it came to knowing the tunes which suit the blue witching hours when the rest of the world is quiet. She also has a voice which was made for those hours and which went hand in glove with the tunes.

Like all the best music broadcasters, Smith on Late Date knew the importance of pace and place regarding what she was playing. Songs which might appear to have no connection whatsoever laid down a breadcrumb trail throughout the show and reeled you in. On a recent show, Link Wray and Leadbelly lead an hour later to Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and it all made sense. That takes experience and class and Smyth at the desk had both qualities in spades.

She was the latest in a proud line of late-night Irish radio DJs of recent vintage going back to Mark Cagney who knew what it took to keep the night owls listening. Many professional radioheads might refer dismissively to the after-midnight slot as the unglamorous graveyard shift, but there are still people listening and they’re listening with more intensity and attention than at any time of the day.

Smith soundtracked countless late nights for those out on the road, sitting in kitchens or just simply unable to nod off – and she did so with great panache and style. Here’s hoping Smyth turns up at some other point on the dial real soon.