O’CALLAGHAN, GARY (1933– )
Gary O’Callaghan joined Sydney’s 2SM at the age of 17, progressing quickly from office boy to newsreader and reporter. In 1954, he scored a worldwide radio scoop, describing the dramatic departure of Evdokia Petrov, the wife of Russian spy Vladimir Petrov, from Mascot Airport.
Within a year, O’Callaghan was hosting the breakfast show on 2UE Sydney. Over the next 30 years, he topped the Sydney breakfast ratings for an extraordinary 138 surveys. He pioneered the breakfast format, delivering an invariably cheerful mix of chat, news and information centred on Sydney that included live on-the-spot coverage, traffic reports and beach patrols from the air, and the status of ferry, train, bus and airline services, including chats with Qantas captains over Sydney. He covered three royal tours and the 1966 tour of US President Lyndon B. Johnson. Generations of listeners came to love O’Callaghan’s sidekick, ‘Sammy Sparrow’, the fictional bird that flew into the studio every morning just before children headed off to school, although it was parodied by Mike Carlton’s ‘Victor Vulture’ on rival station 2GB.
In 1979, O’Callaghan was appointed MBE for services to radio and the community. His passions were radio, news and his family; he was not motivated by money or celebrity, and his word was his bond. Leaving 2UE due to Kerry Packer’s failed Consolidated Broadcasting Corporation experiment, O’Callaghan hosted the 2KY Sydney breakfast program in 1987–88. He then returned to 2UE to present a weekend morning show.
After a metropolitan radio career spanning more than 50 years, O’Callaghan retired in 2003; he was inducted into the Commercial Radio Hall of Fame the following year. In 2002–07, his familiar breezy voice could be heard co-presenting a Sunday morning program on 2MC-FM Port Macquarie with his third son Nicholas, the station’s news director.
REFs: Greater Port Macquarie Focus, September 2011; Nicholas O’Callaghan.