Northern Ireland

Noel Thompson: 'It's been 40 years, but feels like 40 seconds'

Noel Thompson

"I have loved every minute of it."

Veteran journalist Noel Thompson has been reflecting on his decades'-long career, as he prepares to leave the BBC.

Talkback's William Crawley spoke to Noel about his career and how he got into broadcasting.

From Belfast and the son of a salesman, Noel said he had no idea what he wanted to do after completing a degree in modern languages and social sciences.

West Indies

It was while working at his brother's restaurant in the West Indies that he decided he wanted to be a journalist.

He returned to Belfast and eventually was given an interview with BBC Northern Ireland news editor Robin Walsh in 1979.

"I can remember to this day the hairs rising on the back of my neck and thinking: 'This is a world I want to be in.'

"It was just so exciting."

Image caption Noel working as a BBC reporter in 1983

However, he says reporting during the Troubles took its toll.

"I genuinely believe that we all have a little bit of post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

"You get a phone call at two o'clock in the morning saying: 'Get your way down to the Tyrone border.'

"You get there at three o'clock in the morning, there's a body wrapped in a bin bag at the side of the road - we often got there before the police and Army did."

Political interviews

He says when doing political interviews "people hear what they want to hear, so you just have to try and steer an honest path down the middle".

"I've interviewed anyone from Archbishop [Desmond] Tutu to Donny Osmond and they're all fair game," he said.

Image caption Noel chairing the party leaders debate for BBC Northern Ireland ahead of the 2015 general election

Of his 40-year career in journalism presenting several different programmes, he says: "It's all just been different ways of doing the same job; I have loved every minute of it.

"I give thanks every day. I've had an extraordinarily fortunate career. It's been four decades but it feels like about 40 seconds".

Looking ahead, he says he might use his German language skills as a tour guide or do some photography.

"Who knows? It's going to be an exciting time."

Noel, his co-presenter Karen Patterson and colleagues Wendy Austin and Seamus McKee are all preparing to step down from the BBC airwaves in the New Year.

You can hear Noel Thompson talk about his BBC career on Talkback on BBC Radio Ulster at 12 noon on Friday 27 December.

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