Belfast Telegraph

BBC pay: Belfast boy Nolan earns his crust after tough start in life

By Claire McNeilly

To borrow a phrase synonymous with the man himself, people have been 'going boogaloo' about Stephen Nolan's salary.

Relatively speaking, it is of course eye-watering; at least three times more than the second-highest paid presenter at BBC NI, around 10 times more than the majority of his Ormeau Avenue co-workers - and something like 20 times what your average nurse takes home.

Of course, this particular theory of relativity works both ways - and the likes of footballer Lionel Messi and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton earn considerably more in a single week than the multi-award winning presenter of 'the biggest show in the country' amasses in a year.

Moreover, Nolan's compatriot Rory McIlroy may well take home at least double that amount should he hit form in The Open championship this weekend.

And although we could argue all day about whether or not Mr Nolan deserves or justifies his enviable basic - yes, basic - salary, there's no doubt about how hard he works for it.

Whisper it to human resources bosses, but this is a man who's in the studio seven days a week. He often starts his Radio Ulster morning programme less than eight hours after finishing his Radio Five night-time show, and is so 'buzzed' all the time he can't put down his phone or lift a book to read.

He even interrupted a holiday at his California hideaway to host his show when Stormont was once again teetering on the brink.

Just as Queen aren't really Queen without Freddie, ditto the Nolan Show without Nolan.

He sells it, and the Beeb are clearly happy to buy it.

Nolan may wind people up - and he often gets wound up himself - about money, but he sure knows the value of it. Lest we forget, this particular fat cat who got the cream was once an impoverished little kitten.

The scourge of Belfast city centre traffic wardens is a classic rags to riches success story - but don't use that 's' word just yet.

As he cautioned in an interview with this paper a few years ago: "I react very badly to people telling me that I am successful."

But what other word can you use when his is the only Northern Ireland name in the 96-strong list of high earners published by the BBC yesterday?

Undoubtedly, the former Springhill Primary School pupil (right)- the son of a man who earned a pittance working in a factory for 40 years - has come a long way.

Having been raised in Westway Gardens, just off the Ballygomartin Road in north Belfast, the indefatigable Nolan, who'll be 44 on August 20, is fiercely proud of his working-class roots.

His fabulous Co Down home is a mere 25 miles away from his boyhood residence, but otherwise it's a world away from where it all began; the place he calls 'fantasy island' is the physical embodiment of a childhood dream of being able to afford a house by the sea.

It's a renovated property rather than a new-build because his plans to knock down the existing premises and construct a new one were thwarted by the property crash that cost him his life savings.

But his work ethic meant there would always be more where that came from -and, today, the £1m purpose-built home on the shores of Strangford Lough boasts a swimming pool, private jetty and boat house. Not bad for a wee boy from the Shankill.

In a 2012 interview he told Gail Walker, now Belfast Telegraph Editor, that losing money - hundreds of thousands, in fact - was "one of the most frightening and traumatic things" he's ever been through.

"I'm sure that my insecurity about money comes from not having much when I was young. I started off with nothing," he said.

"My dad was finding it difficult to pay the fees for me at Belfast Inst while other dads were dropping their kids off to school in flashy Mercs."

Nolan was studying French and business studies at Queen's University when he got his first break on Belfast Community Radio (BCR) in 1993, working the graveyard 1-6am slot.

He always wanted to work for the BBC, but his hopes were dashed when he was told by a senior manager that he'd never be good enough for the corporation.

In the mid 1990s, he began presenting The Scene, a current affairs programme, for BCR, which earned him his first Sony Award.

He then became a regular on UTV Life at the start of the Noughties, as well as securing a reporting spot on Channel 5's The Wright Stuff.

In 2001 BBC NI poached him to front a new consumer affairs programme, Fair Play. Property show Right Move followed and, in 2003, he finally got his eponymous show on Radio Ulster.

But that wasn't enough, and two years later he started presenting late-night shows on Radio Five. By 2007, he had a regular current affairs show in local television as well.

To date, he has won 16 Sony Awards, including nine gold, four silver and three bronze.

He has also won the most Sony golds of anyone in the UK; more than enough precious metal to back up his argument that he's worth every penny.

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