Photo: Martina Regan

'I'd like Navan to be a bit greener, I'd create a big forest around the Bull!'

NAVAN'S Hector Ó hEochagáin has travelled the world over the last 20 years, but one of his favourites journeys is back to Navan where he grew up.

“We have a chipper on Friday night, it’s the China Garden on Saturday and of course we call into Jacksie Kiernan on Saturday afternoon,” says the popular TV presenter and podcaster who has returned from filming a new TV series in South East Asia.

Although living in Galway and traveling the world with his TG4 travel series, Hector still has strong links with his native Navan.

“My sons know Jacksie well. They grew up going to Jacksie's to get their Meath jerseys - very important especially when your winning the Tailteann Cup. My Dad had a shop beside Jacksie. He hasn't changed a bit.

“An of course we go out to see the relations in Donaghmore and Follistown.”

His new show 'Hector - Ó na Philippines go dtí na Solomons' began on TG4 last Thursday night (7th September) at 9.30pm. In the series, Hector takes us on a journey like no other through Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Java, and Bali in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

He is proud of the TG4 series and loves travelling to remote corners of the world, but always makes time for a visit to Navan.

Meath football manager and former principal of his old school, St Pat’s, Colm O'Rourke invited Hector and pal, Tommy Tiernan back to the school last year to speak to the pupils.

“There is still a strong Meath connection,” he said.

Hector, who was one of the first guests on the newly revamped Late Late Show last Friday loves to see the improvements in his home town.

“Trimgate Street is looking well. There is a nice feel to it. Can we make it greener?,” he asks. “If I was on the council I'd keep planting more trees. I'd create a forest around the Bull.”

As regards feeling safe in his hometown, Hector says that everywhere is a little bit on edge given what had been happening in Dublin recently.

“The problem seems to be that the punishment doesn't fit the crime and those involved don't give two hoots,” he said.

Hector is very proud of his travel series, which he has been doing for the past 20 years and of his latest one in particular.

“It is mad that every autumn, we come back with this series. We have a good slot at 9.30pm when the dishwashers are filled.”

He visited South Asia 20 years ago, so it was interesting to revisit the area.

“There were huge changes,” he said.

This time he travelled from the Philippines into Malaysia and Singapore, across the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali before crossing into the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

“When I was in the Solomon Islands, I was 15,500 miles from my own door.

“The people of Ireland know Thailand, Bali and Singapore, but there is very little tourism in Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands.

“We wanted to bring viewers to where out audience never get to,” he said.

“It involves a lot of travel, sometimes 14 hours in a Hi-Ace van on dirt roads.”

In the Philippines he witnessed a wedding with over 100 couples, some in their 60s or 70s.

“The Mayor put on this function for them. They were too poor to put on a celebration themselves.

“We saw a lot of poverty. We spent time with the pushcart educators on the streets of the city, bringing mobile classrooms to the areas where the children are too poor to go to school.

“There is a lot of fun in the show, but a lot of sadness too. It is a real alternative travel show.

“When we were in Papua New Guinea we really realised how remote we were. The people there only ever saw white men who were there to take their petrol, gas and gold - the global companies that take everything they have, just like the colonists that drove us to starvation.”

Hector has enjoyed his travels over the past 20 years.

“I'll never forget being in Siberia when it was -42 degrees. The first time I saw the Grand Canyon I nearly started crying. I met so many interesting people, been in the jungles of Africa.

“I've met some of the world's poorest people and some of those were among the happiest people I ever met. It gives me a perspective on life.”

Hector has had a very varied TV career - from his travel show, the extremely popular ‘Hanging with Hector’, the ‘Only Fools Buy Horses’ series and many other documentaries.

Since September 2020, he has presented The Tommy and Hector Podcast with Laurita Blewitt.

“To think I'd be sitting in a podcast with Tommy Tiernan - it's really great. There is a real Meathness in it and I'm very proud of that,” he said.