If there is one person who is well known in Co Longford, it’s Shannonside FM’s receptionist Mary Hussey.
And after 25 years as the first point of contact at the radio station, Mary is putting down the phone for the last time and retiring from the station.
As she told the Leader last week, “They have been the best years of my life,” and indeed working at the heart of the community for the people of the community for a quarter of a century does bring its rewards.
Shannonside started in November, 1989 and Mary Hussey began her career there in 1992 when she was taken on in a work experience capacity.
Her local knowledge, her empathy and ability to listen to those who rang the station with difficulties or concerns stood the test of time, and by 1995 Mary was a full time employee of the station.
She has met and chatted with many famous people and holds dear many special moments from those 25 years, not least the station’s 25th anniversary celebrations back in 2014.
“Memorable moments for me in the station would include the listeners who I listened to every day, some with requests, others with tales of woe, others just calling for a chat or a listening ear,” she smiled.
“I got great satisfaction from helping listeners out with information they requested about a song or singer or cures they may have heard about on the station.
“Basically the listeners could have asked anything of me on the phone.”
The down to earth and good natured Lanesboro native also boasts a great sense of humour.
“I even had listeners ringing me up looking for Joe Duffy,” she laughed before pointing out that others rang to see if she knew what the weather was going to be like!
“It was all in a day’s work and I have to say I enjoyed it all.
“My 25 years with Shannonside/Northern Sound Radio were really happy ones.”
Indeed over that quarter of a century working at the heart of the community, Mary Hussey has met her fair share of celebrities and VIPs.
“It was so great to meet Daniel O’Donnell - I like Daniel,” she added, before adding that he was “lovely, very nice, very chatty”.
Tyrone football manager and motivational speaker, Mickey Joe Harte is also someone who sticks out in Mary’s mind.
She has also met past and present taoisigh, presidential candidates, politicians, artists, musicians and songwriters.
“I have been very lucky to meet people like Brendan Grace, the late Joe Dolan and most recently Albert Hammond the great songwriter who wrote many hits including songs for Joe Dolan,” she recalled.
“I have made so many friends after my 25 years at the station.”
For a long time, the Lanesboro woman did the early morning shift which began at 7am.
Those mornings became a busy time of day for Mary.
“I did the early morning shift for many years and there were so many of our listeners that would ring for the chat - some of them were lonely and they just enjoyed talking,” she explained before pointing out that much of the work at the station centred around being a voice for people who had none.
“The Joe Finnegan Show goes out in the morning and sure Joe is what Joe Duffy is to RTE; people would ring up with the problems,” she continued.
“When you listen to people you can often get a very good story.
“In a lot of cases, Shannonside has been able to help people out.
“Hospital appointments for example would be something that would cause concern for some people and when they are given the opportunity to speak on local radio about that, very often the situation changes for them.”
Sometimes, she added, people just need a simple explanation and that is all.
“In Shannonside the staff are able to research and check everything out, so in a lot of cases we are able to really help people and that is a very important aspect to our work because the station is at the heart of the community.
“It’s about helping people locally; about giving them a voice.”
After 25 years, Mary has seen many changes too.
One of the biggest, she admits is the advance in technology in broadcast media.
“While all of this is going on, you have to be local at heart, or you won’t keep the listeners,” she confirmed, before pointing out that trust, openness and honesty were key to the success of local media.
She has many memories too, after those 25 years.
The station initially started out from humble beginnings at Minard House.
Around 15 years ago, it moved into a new premises on the Athlone Road in Longford town and this, says Mary was a very special time for Shannonside.
“There was such a buzz of excitement,” she smiled, before pointing out that the 25th anniversary celebrations in 2014 was also a momentous occasion for staff at the radio station.
A native of Lanesboro, Mary is married to Séan and the couple have three daughters - Sinéad, RTE correspondent; Laura, teacher in Newtownforbes and Alma, nursing student in DCU.
Mary and Séan knew each other for years before they started dating.
“We met out in my hometown of Lanesboro in 1980,” Mary recalled fondly.
“We were engaged in ‘81, married in ‘82 and then we had our first daughter Sinéad in ‘83.
The news in recent weeks that Mary and Séan are to become grandparents later this year has also brought great joy to the Hussey family.
Mary is now readying herself to move from one phase in life to another and no doubt there are many more memorable moments ahead for her.