These days Ruairi McSorley looks more like a country music star, than the ruddy-cheeked schoolboy who predicated ‘you wouldn’t be long gettin’ frostbit’ when he was filmed during a television weather report back in January 2015.
Arriving for our interview, the 20-year-old cuts quite a dash in dark denim jeans, cowboy boots (‘‘they’ve got to be brown for town’’, he says, all seriousness), snazzy black leather jacket, and fancy shirt, open enough at the neck to reveal a silver chain and a heady whiff of cologne.
McSorley looks like he’s just come from lassoing cattle or riding a bucking bronco, rather than, more mundanely, having just stepped off an Ulsterbus from the small village of Park, where he still lives with his parents when he’s not at university in Galway,
The ‘country’ garb is no coincidence as McSorley is in town to promote the launch of Belfast’s first country music venue at Crumlin Road Gaol called Mr Frosty’s Country Club and he’s set himself the challenge to #GetBelfastJiving.
The overnight internet sensation is widely recognisable as he struts to the News Letter offices. Heads turns and people mumble ‘It’s Frosbit Boy’.
He’s certainly a character, working the ‘audience’ in the newsroom, shaking hands with the other journalists, talking a mile a minute in an accent as thick as treacle.
It’s an accent I’m familiar with, having been brought up not a million miles away from McSorley; indeed his character reminds me of many of the straightorward, honest-to-goodness country folk from my own childhoold, who are sadly becoming a dying breed. The difference is, they tended to be old boys, well past their prime, unlike McSorley who is still a whippersnapper.
McSorley’s life changed two years ago when he was interviewed as he strolled through the snowy Sperrins landscape wearing just his uniform blazer for protection.
But it was when he opened his mouth, and that incredible thick culchie accent, complete with a catalogue colloquialisms, poured out, that the then A level student catapulted himself to worldwide fame, with clips of his interview hitting 3.5million views in three days.
Since the broadcast, McSorley has been enjoying his new-found fame, and still seems a little shocked by the whole frostbit furore.
‘‘Oh God, it’s wile craic. It was just a remark I would have made to the next person on the street and the next of it I just came home famous and that was that.
‘‘My life has never been the same since. I couldn’t go about in Belfast there now or go out for the night anywhere without someone looking for selfies and autographs and everything.
‘‘You couldn’t write it,’’ he chuckles.
But ‘Frostbit’ wasn’t his first brush with fame. He has long been uploading videos of his impressions to his own YouTube channel, which includes a huge range of
people from Dragon’s Den’s Hilary Devey to a spot-on take on Father Ted’s Dougal McGuire, played by Ardal O’Hanlon. He can even do an impression of a snooker match.
The YouTube video also shows him doing his own take on Brendan O’Carroll’s Mrs Brown, singer Daniel O’Donnell, BT voicemail and a host of Coronation Street characters.
He was in Upper Sixth at Lumen Christi College in Londonderry doing A Levels in English, Spanish, Irish and ICT, when he found fame, but says academia isn’t for him.
‘‘I had the brains and all that, but that whole system just didn’t suit me that wile great.’’
Despite this, he’s now studying Irish and Media at Galway University.
‘‘I’m registered anyway, although whether there’s much studying done is another matter.’’
An only child, McSorley grew up in the country, but isn’t from a farming background,
‘‘I don’t have a blade of grass to me name,’’ he says.
His mother would like him to be an accountant, but crunching numbers is definitely not on the cards.
‘‘ A nine to five is definitely not for me
‘‘From I was in the cot people always said ‘you should be up on the stage, you should do something on the TV,’ but I think, you can’t fake craic.’’
What is very noticeable from seeing McSorley in the flesh, is how svelte he looks - in fact, he’s lost three stones.
‘‘I never tried to lose weight and there was no healthy eating or nothing, it’s solely through jiving, going out one or two nights a week.’’
But despite his new trim physique, he says he’s still single. ‘‘Because I’m that auld-fashioned, I sorta nearly always end up with older women. This ‘thranocity’, this stubborness - whenever you take that attitude with the young ‘cutties’, you can’t get rid of them. Like they say, you’re more attracted to a tin of beans that’s harder to open.’’