Who better to take part in the first ‘Dear Reader’ questionnaire than the Memory Man himself, Jimmy Magee?
What is your earliest memory?
It must have been when I was coming home from America [in 1939]. I saw a model of a steam engine on a railway station, and I later discovered that the only place where there had been one was in the station in Belfast. So it must have been there. I remember it fondly because it was quite a big model on the wall. I thought, ‘This is fascinating!’
What was the last book you read?
The last one was Memory Man – I read it from cover to cover the other day! I must be mad, reading stuff of my own and laughing at the same things!
When and where you were happiest?
I’ve nearly always been happy, to be honest. I’m happiest when visiting a new place that I really enjoy – like my first trips to Cape Town and Rio. But I’m always happy in New York. I love New York in June.
What is your favourite word?
Please. I find it good manners. The word can also refer to something that would please you, as well as please as an expression of manners. It has two meanings, which I like.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
The satisfaction of doing it well. Hopefully the goal is always to do it well, but anyone who thinks they’re always perfect is codding themselves. The aspiration is to do it well, and when you do it the next time – do it even better.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
It was from my parents when I was very young: if you can’t say anything good about someone, say nothing at all. Anyone who’s not mentioned in my book, watch out! I’m only joking. But that advice applies if you’re broadcasting – you can’t say, ‘Kerry would have won but for so and so.’
What do you regret?
I have no regrets, I have some question-marks: had I stayed in America and worked in broadcasting there, what would I be doing today? I have no real regrets, bar of course losing through death my son, my younger sister, wife and my mother. They died within weeks of each other. But that’s more a sadness than a regret.
Where would you most like to live?
Switzerland. But if you got me a nice apartment in New York, I wouldn’t say no! I’d love to live in Switzerland for part of the year and in Ireland for the other part. Why Switzerland? Punctuality, nice food, nice hotels, and people who mind their own business.
What’s the best present you’ve ever received?
The best present I ever received was love.
How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered for two reasons. From a professional point of view, I’d like to be remembered as someone who did his job consistently well. And on a personal level, which is much more important, I would like to be remembered as someone who was generous in every sense.