Where Are They Now? The Den Presenter Who Wasn’t Ray D’Arcy Or Ian Dempsey


OUR new ‘Where Are They Now?’ feature seeks to bring readers up to speed on the fondly remembered figures from the world of arts, politics, sport and beyond who have perhaps retreated from the spotlight in recent years. This time we look at the presenter of The Den who wasn’t Ray D’Arcy or Ian Dempsey:

The hugely popular RTÉ kids show The Den hosted first by Ian Dempsey, who was then replaced by Ray D’Arcy with both presenters becoming synonymous with children’s programming in Ireland. Both men have gone on to have hugely succesful careers in broadcasting, remaining in the public eye for years.

The path of the other presenter of The Den is less well known by the public with many unsure as to what he did next. For the convenience of not taxing its memory too much the Nation has conflated two Den presenters into one, which is just easier to be honest. But where is Damien Francis Boylan McCaul Jnr today and what did he do post-The Den?

I track Damien Francis Boylan McCaul Jnr down in Connemara on the edge of an unassuming farm, I ignore several signs indicating we are on private property and will most likely be shot all because the Nation needs to know what happened to a presenter so beloved we can’t quite picture what he looked like now that we think about it.

A barn door ajar, I push it open prompting a creak befitting a horror movie but nothing. Not a TV presenting soul to be found.

Paudie, the local Sherpa I purchased in Ennis assures me such a man exists, and that the local towns have been wild with stories of ‘the man from the Den’ for years. Connemara native and PhD student in Den Studies Martin Walshe is positive Boylan McCaul Jnr had been spotted just last week.

However, due to his reclusive nature, myself and Paudie would have to be cunning and resourceful. We spied a furrow emblazoned on the ground beyond the barn, a man made path heavy with the pacing of a man trying to escape the fame and adulation that comes with presenting the seminal children’s programming block on RTÉ which reigned supreme through the late 80s until the early 2000s.

We trekked on the rolling hills for what must have been hours, climbing higher and higher until we met with misty views atop a mountain.

Suddenly we could hear worbled sounds of something. Afraid to venture further, the sounds now circled us. Where we surrounded by some ancient beast? Or worse a goat in heat?

Out of the fog reached a hand clutching me by my jacket and pulling my body towards it, I was struck by something, rendering me unconscious. I would wake in the familiar surroundings of that barn some time later.

“It was meant to be a secret,” an exquisitely bearded Damien Francis McCaul Boylan Jnr told me as I came to. I had done it, I had found the man who replaced Ray D’Arcy and underwhelmed to the point where the Nation couldn’t quite remember who he was. What had he been doing all this time?

Just then, I had my answer. There was some rustling behind McCaul Boylan Jnr, and several petite figures emerged.

“I couldn’t let RTÉ get away with it any longer. He needed somewhere safe, somewhere he stood a chance,” McCaul Boylan Jnr confessed as I was surrounded by a number of wild Sockies.

“Socky was the last of Ireland’s indigenous sock monster population and there he was chained up in the RTÉ canteen. I couldn’t take it so I resigned from my presenting position and under the cover of darkness I broke in, freeing him. I then dedicated the subsequent years to finding a way to artificially inseminate myself with Socky’s sperm, birthing this flock of 12 sockies you see before you now,” he added neglected to tell me how a man could manage such a feat.

Upon the misty mountain tops in remote Connemara, the wild sockies are hearded and given a chance to thrive in open spaces a world away from a cage in the RTÉ canteen.

RTÉ had made little effort to recover Socky as they feared the world would discover how terribly they treated an endangered species, but McCaul Boylan Jnr said he just did what anyone else would do.

“Well, what everyone would do apart from Dempsey and D’Arcy. Bastards. They just took their keep quiet money, but I couldn’t do that,” he explained, clearly irritated at occupying the same fond status in the presenting world as his predecessors.

McCaul Boylan Jnr concluded our meeting with the story of how poachers shot and killed Socky some 4 years ago.

“But I ate him whole before they had a chance of capturing him. So in essence Socky is still alive in me as I’ve absorbed his being”.