Jim Sherwin obituary: A broadcasting legend in Ireland

An extraordinary all-rounder with a love and knowledge of music, sports, hillwalking and fine wines

A quiet, reserved man, Jim Sherwin was a prolific reader of fiction and biographies

A quiet, reserved man, Jim Sherwin was a prolific reader of fiction and biographies

 

Jim Sherwin
Born: February 28th, 1940
Died: December 27th, 2021

The RTÉ sports journalist and producer Jim Sherwin has died at his Co Wicklow home following a short illness. Sherwin was particularly synonymous with the station’s rugby coverage which he helped to front from 1970 to 2004 when his last commentary was on the Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland at Lansdowne Road. Former British and Irish Lions rugby player John Robbie described him as a “broadcasting legend in Ireland”.

Sherwin was also RTÉ’s main commentator at eight Olympic Games beginning with Munich in 1972 and concluding with Athens in 2004. He also reported on tennis tournaments for more than 20 years, including those at Wimbledon and the French Open.

Broadcaster Jim Sherwin got his first full-time job at RTÉ in 1961
Broadcaster Jim Sherwin got his first full-time job at RTÉ in 1961
One colleague said he was one of the few people in RTÉ
to rise through the ranks from continuity announcer to producer/director

A familiar face and voice to many Irish sports fans, Sherwin began his career in RTÉ as a continuity announcer while still a student. The only child of Paddy and Phil Sherwin, he grew up on Mountjoy Street, Dublin and attended O’Connell School in Drumcondra, winning a scholarship to study Irish and English at University College Dublin (UCD). It was at this time that he worked at the fledging broadcasting station in its original home at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street. His mother died when he was just 21 and he moved to live with his two aunts, BeBe and Jo Fleming, on Parnell Street, Dublin for a few years.

He met his wife-to-be Anne Roche, then a physiotherapy student at UCD, on a college trip to Achill Island. The couple married in 1965 and bought a site in Delgany where they built a house and reared their family of four children.

Sherwin got his first full-time job at RTÉ in 1961 and his clear speaking voice and fluency in Irish held him in good stead as a news reader. He took a sideways move to sports commentary and thereafter became a reliable reporter on everything from Grand Prix motor racing to world tennis championships and international rugby games.

A lifelong member at Fitzwilliam, he shared his vast knowledge on fine wines with members of various wine tasting committees

Described by colleagues as an extraordinary all-rounder, he also commentated on the inauguration of presidents, the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ireland in 1979 as well as presenting quiz programmes and producing documentaries on health and social issues. The latter included Listen and See, a long-running radio series for blind people, documentaries on unemployment and a series on mental health called Talking Heads. One colleague said he was one of the few people in RTÉ to rise through the ranks from continuity announcer to producer/director. He retired from RTÉ in 2005.

Throughout his life, Sherwin had a love of music, naming his favourite composers as “Bach, Bob Dylan and Beethoven”. He played the piano and regularly accompanied neighbours and friends in singalongs. As a young man, he played water polo with the North Dublin Water Polo Club. He played table tennis in UCD and went on to play squash and tennis for many years at the Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club. A lifelong member at Fitzwilliam, he shared his vast knowledge on fine wines with members of various wine tasting committees.

In 2010, he began to produce the hillwalking series, Tracks & Trails, in which well-known personalities would join a presenter on a familiar walking route somewhere in Ireland. Sherwin produced eight series in total, presenting one programme per series. These included personal favourite routes such as from the Bull Wall to Marino and Glasnevin, Mulranny to Achill Island and the Bray to Greystones Cliff walk. His daughter Cliona became the producer of Tracks & Trails from series nine onwards and the series is produced by the video production company, run by his youngest son, John.

A quiet, reserved man, Sherwin was a prolific reader of fiction and biographies. He was heavily involved in the Ireland Funds, the global philanthropic network established in 1976 to promote and support peace, culture, education and community development in the Republic and Northern Ireland. At that time, he began a lifelong friendship with Irish American businessman Dan Rooney (who later became the United States ambassador to Ireland) and inspired Dan and Patricia Rooney to establish the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature.

Sherwin went on to administer the prize, which was awarded annually to Irish writers under 40 who had work published in Irish or English, for more than 30 years before its administration was moved to the Oscar Wilde Centre for Creative Writing at Trinity College Dublin.

Following their retirements, Jim and his wife, Anne, took long-haul flights to India, China and Canada, travelling across the North American continent by train. They also spent time in Portugal as well as being active sideline supporters of their grandchildren’s football, rugby, hurling and tennis matches and gymnastic competitions.

Jim Sherwin is survived by his wife, Anne, his children James, Ian, Cliona and John, and 11 grandchildren.