Skip to content
Landing page show after 5 seconds.

A Day in the Life: David Cawley


RADIO STAR David Cawley is pictured at work in Mid West Radio’s studio in Castlebar last week. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

I’VE been presenting the breakfast show on Mid West Radio for the last 23 years so my morning routine is fairly predictable at this stage! Even though I’ve been based in our Castlebar studio rather than Ballyhaunis since last March, my first alarm still goes off at 4.50am. I’ll get up, have a bit of cereal or porridge for breakfast, and scroll through social media to see what I might be talking about on the show that morning.
Then I’ll make myself a flask of coffee and a few sandwiches, tip-toe out of the house without waking my wife, Jane, or the kids, and then make the short drive into work from Derreens (which is between Belcarra and Balla). I’m in the studio for 5.40am.
The hour and twenty minutes before the show starts flies by; I’ll be going through the news and sport from overnight, picking out clips, choosing songs, and generally getting organised.
Even though I’m doing it for so long, I’d still have a twinge of nerves when the 7am news bulletin comes on. But you need that, that helps you to perform and do the job.
And when the show starts there’s an automatic reaction that kicks in.
The hour and 45 minutes you’re on air is still the best part of the job. You feed off the energy of the listeners and because radio is such a ‘one to one’ medium, you have to recognise that what you say might help to make somebody’s day just a little bit better.
I know, for a long time, I strived to be perfect. But as I’ve got older, I’ve started to allow for a show that might not be great, to allow myself make a mistake. Because that allows you to make better radio. I firmly believe that when you bend the rules, you make better radio.
In more recent years I’ve also tried to get more of my personality across; I’ve started to tell listeners more about my life, my family, and what I get up to. I think it’s very important because you have to be tangible and real to your listeners.
If I play the Foo Fighters tomorrow morning, the listeners will stay with me because they trust me. And even if they don’t like that song, they’ll stay with me. Because there’s a connection and a trust there between us.
I always admired the late Terry Wogan as a breakfast radio presenter. He had that rare ability to break down the barriers between the speakers and the people. He was able to talk to 19 million people and to each of them individually at the same time.
I find I’m listening to a lot of podcasts these days, and I’m a big fan of the Tommy and Hector Podcast with Laurita [Blewitt].
The breakfast show is really regimented and formatted, but I know that when you’re listening to it you want it to sound a little haphazard, if that makes sense.
Because I know that if people hear me playing ‘The Forgotten Classic’ or talking to Tommy Marren every morning, they know where they should be at that time. So the format for the show is very strict even though it probably sounds loose!
In terms of how things have changed since Covid-19, my own delivery has probably come back off the throttle a little bit. I’ve pulled back a bit and likewise with the music I play.
You try and bring a little more gentleness, and maybe talk about things like the mornings getting bright, and why there are reasons to be positive.
When the show ends at 8.45am, I can’t wait to have a cup of tea or coffee!
But my other job as the Production Manager kicks in straightaway until 2pm; myself and Padraic Walsh record all the ads that you hear on Mid West Radio and it’s my job to organise them and work them into the schedule as well.
Away from work, since I turned 40, I’ve been cycling quite a bit and I did my first 10k last May. Now I try and run three 10ks every week and I walk the dog a few times as well.
During the week I’m usually in bed by 9.30pm and the lights go out at 10pm. I need six or seven hours sleep, and I’d take eight if I got them!
It’s funny because I’m in bed before my kids, Isabel (14) and Joe (11)!
My wife, Jane, started a reflexology business before Christmas and is really enjoying it. She’s happy to give me some reflexology if I ask for it. As long as I pay for it, of course!
In terms of advice I would give to people interested in working in radio, I would say: Learn the basics, allow your personality to come across, and learn the rules before you break them!

In conversation with Mike Finnerty

Name: David Cawley
Age: 46
From: Castlebar, lives in Derreens
Occupation: Breakfast show presenter and Production Manager, Mid West Radio.

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?

Spend time with people that make me happy. Or ‘Gone fishing!’

Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I once played the drums on TV on a programme called ‘Radiomaze’. (I can’t play the drums!)

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

Sushi. It turns out I’m not a fan!

Favourite place in the world?

What makes you angry?

How do you unwind?
Walks, reading, music.

Name three things in your fridge?

Milk, tomatoes, Guinness.

What makes you nervous?
Sleeping in! Three alarm clocks help.

Last book you read?
I’m reading ‘Greenlights’ by Matthew McConaghey. The last book I read was ‘Phil Collins - ain’t dead yet’.

Favourite TV show?
Fleabag, Schitts Creek, CHiPS (retro!).

Most famous person you’ve met?
Roberto Mancini, Man City legend. I still get emotional thinking about QPR 2012!

What do you miss most being a kid?
Saleen Lake.

What’s your most prized possession?

Best advice you ever got?
Just be yourself.

Describe yourself in three words?
Loyal, relaxed, professional.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when this Covid-19 lockdown ends?
Tea with my parents followed by pints with friends... while hugging everyone!