Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Grieving fans of Gerry Ryan remember ‘the man with the common touch’

The funeral of Gerry Ryan in Dublin. May 6 2010
Gerry Ryan's coffin is carried from St John the Baptist Church in Clontarf, Dublin, by his brother Mick (left) and his son Elliot (second right), following his funeral service
Mourners at the home of Gerry Ryan. May 2010

In the minds of the hundreds of grieving fans who huddled together, weeping and swapping tales of the irreverent broadcaster outside the funeral Mass, Gerry Ryan had been raised to almost divine heights in death.

“It doesn't matter who you were, Gerry had the good word,” said 62-year-old Edward Lee.

“It's like a saint has died.”

The retiree, who travelled from Kilkenny to pay respects to the broadcaster, said it was Ryan's musings on life that touched him most, tuning in day in and day out.

“I think he was just the man of the people,” he said.

“He had the common touch. He blended with people, the ordinary people.”

Across from St John the Baptist Church in leafy Clontarf, a tricolour hung from a railing bearing the slogan: “Gerry, you put the merry into morning. God Bless You.”

“He was a God in our family,” said Angela Dooley, who travelled from Carlow for the occasion. “Is there anyone else bigger in Ireland?”

At the nearby family home where he reposed over the last two nights, flowers were placed outside, while one person left a half-drunk bottle of whisky on the windowsill — a nod to Gerry's love of the lavish high life.

“He was just a cocky git, he was brilliant. He was too young to go,” said 53-year-old Margaret Flynn.

To fans he was their collective voice, championing their causes and reflecting on the good and bad of modern Ireland. When the cortege arrived they scrambled on to railings and up trees to catch

a glimpse before groups spontaneously erupted into applause.

Among the chief mourners were family including former wife Morah, their children, Lottie, Rex, Elliot, Bonnie and Babs, his brothers Michael and Vincent, and his current partner Melanie Verwoerd.

The funeral service heard how while the boisterous, ultra-confident veneer rarely slipped on air, Gerry was all too human and suffered from his own personal battles.

And that contrast between Gerry the star public performer and Gerry the man was touched on by close friend Fr Brian D'Arcy in his homily.

“Being loved by the people of the country didn't make Gerry's life any less painful at times,” he told mourners.

Fans, mostly middle-aged, gathered outside St John the Baptist from up to two hours before the service. Although it was too small to accommodate them all, forcing them to remain on the path outside, they were not forgotten.

Gerry's “man of the people” qualities were again on show as Mass booklets were distributed to the crowd outside.

On the inside page was a black and white photo of a beaming Gerry in the RTE studios, and many held the portrait aloft during the service.

It was a who's who of Irish celebrity names, from fellow RTE stars Pat Kenny, Ryan Tubridy and Dave Fanning, to Boyzone star Keith Duffy, former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and boyband Westlife, who performed during the service.

Singing You Raise Me Up, some fans shed tears from reddened eyes and mouthed the words as the music echoed across the churchyard.

As his coffin was carried from the church, his youngest daughter Babette (10), weeping and clutching a doll, was comforted by mother Morah.

Beginning his final journey to Dardistown Cemetery, where he was to be buried in a family plot with his parents, fans again broke into applause and formed a guard of honour along the road, tossing a handful of roses on to the passing hearse.

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