I’m still searching for the old TV commercial starring my father

Does anyone out there have a link to Eircom ad featuring Joe Boland in Connemara?

Atop my kitchen counter, there is a beautiful small olive-wood bowl that usually contains a varying number of eggs. Like many things in my house, there is a story behind this bowl.

Back in 1997, my hometown of Ennis in Co Clare won a national competition to become Ireland’s first “Information Age Town”. Some €19 million was allocated to Ennis so that residents could apply to have PCs for free, supported by free classes in the community on how to use them. Local schools received 500 computers.

Anyway, my father Joe decided he would apply for one of these free PCs, and duly did so. He passed a basic skills test, and the PC arrived. I wrote a piece about Ennis’s foray into the “Information Age” and interviewed my father about his adventures exploring this new technology. A colleague arrived to take a photograph of him in his study. The piece ran.

Some time later, my phone rang at work. The long and the short of it was: Eircom, as the telecoms company was then, was interested in making an ad that would feature an older person using technology and computers. They had seen the piece I had written, and wanted to encourage other older people to embrace technology. Might my father be interested in appearing in an ad?


My father gamely decided he was interested. I followed the process from a distance with fascination. The agency making the ad were McConnells. They visited my father at home, and talked to him about his interests, to build up some kind of back story. They decided to focus on his love of Napoleon, history, and travel.

My mother provided coffee and home baking for the visitors. Nobody thought about including her in the ad.

My father was then taken to Connemara for a couple of days to shoot the ad. It was, if I recall, shot either at Gurteen beach or Dog’s Bay, with his voiceovers. He and the crew definitely stayed in Roundstone for the duration; I think in Eldon’s Hotel. He joked that the hotel would have to put up a blue plaque outside to mark the stay of the famous actor, Joe Boland. I managed to call him at one point on the hotel’s landline, to see how everything was going. He told me he couldn’t stay on the line long: he was going for dinner with “the crew”.

At the time, I was sharing a house with three others in Dublin. A couple of months after my father went to Connemara, I was in the kitchen, wondering what to make for dinner, when my housemates roared to me from the livingroom. They were watching the Six O’Clock news on TV, and the ad had come on.

My mother was scandalised at what she perceived as a waste of money, and fretted that maybe it was her fault

I raced into the livingroom, and saw my father on screen, walking on the beach in a coat he had bought when I had been with him. There was a globe, and a passport, and a model ship also in the ad. Then it was over. We all stayed in the room for the next hour or so, and the ad played in each break. It was mad seeing my own father on television. I called home, but could not get through, as their phone was engaged with the many friends who had also seen the ad.

About a fortnight later, my father called me. McConnell’s had been back on to him. They had done some research about the ad’s impact, focusing on the target market of older viewers. The message that had come back was: was my father a widower? Why was he walking alone on the beach? Did he go on holidays by himself?

This was obviously a distraction from the core message of the ad. The agency had thus called my father, to ask him if he would consider making another ad, but this time, with my mother in it too, and in another country. As before, they would be paid for their time, and hosted. My father wanted to know what I thought: should they do it? I told him yes, a million times yes, and then got on the phone to help persuade my mother to participate in this experience. She decided to agree. It would be a shared adventure.

My parents were taken to Spain, and a second ad was filmed; in Ronda. They apparently were filmed walking over the gorge there. They were put up for, I think, three nights, in some lovely hotel. My mother reported that one evening, the crew, of whom she had become very fond, had gone out to Marbella for the night. When they gathered to fly back, a crew member gave my parents a beautiful olive-wood bowl as a memento; the bowl I now have.

This second ad was never broadcast. I have no idea why. My mother was scandalised at what she perceived as a waste of money, and fretted that maybe it was her fault somehow for appearing in this ad that never aired. My father was far more pragmatic: pointing out that they knew nothing about how marketing worked, and they had a wonderful time. None of us saw that ad.

I have not been able to find the ad anywhere online. Does anyone out there, I wonder, have a link to the Eircom ad that aired all those years ago featuring my father?

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Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland

Rosita Boland is Senior Features Writer with The Irish Times. She was named NewsBrands Ireland Journalist of the Year for 2018