Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Gerry Anderson death: A national treasure, a legend of the airwaves and a family man

Wife leads tributes to Gerry Anderson

Gerry with his loyal radio sidekick Sean Coyle
Gerry with his loyal radio sidekick Sean Coyle
Much-loved broadcaster Gerry Anderson
Gerry on stage at McGrory's Bar in Donegal
Gerry with fellow broadcaster Stephen Nolan

The wife of broadcaster Gerry Anderson last night said she was "overwhelmed" by the outpouring of love for her husband in the hours after his death.

Leading the tributes to the broadcasting legend, who died aged 69 following a long illness, Christine Anderson described him as "a beautiful and loving husband, father and grandfather" who had touched the lives of everyone he knew.

In a statement issued last night, she said: "I have been overwhelmed with the love expressed for Gerry, even in the few short hours since he passed away.

"I always knew that Gerry was hugely popular. His humour, intellect, creativity and talent made him a great broadcaster and author. The great outpouring of grief today showed us how much he touched the hearts and lives of all who knew him and who followed him.

"Those same traits made Gerry a beautiful and loving husband, father and grandfather and to me the most courageous and best friend anyone could ever have."

Mrs Anderson also spoke of her pride in her husband as he battled a long illness over the last two years.

And while she appealed for privacy to mourn their loss, she said his funeral in his native Londonderry this Sunday would be open to the public to pay their respects.

"We are immensely proud of the courage and dignity with which Gerry dealt with his illness over the past two years," she said. "He will always be an inspiration to us all.

"As a family, David, Kirsty and I are heartbroken but we know the prayers, good wishes and love of the public will help sustain us at this terrible time.

"Gerry was a very private man away from his professional life and we wish to respect that. We would ask people to respect our privacy in the coming days. For that reason, we will be keeping our home private. However, I understand that people want to show their love and appreciation for Gerry in a public way. One way of doing this would be to attend Gerry's funeral at St Eugene's Cathedral on Sunday morning at 11am."

Gerry Anderson, whose career spanned 30 years, was one of Northern Ireland's best-known and best-loved presenters.

He hosted radio and television programmes for BBC Northern Ireland, Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle as well as a short, unhappy stint on Radio 4.

BBC girector general Tony Hall said Anderson was a "distinctive and iconic voice".

"That he was inducted into the UK Radio Academy Hall of Fame speaks volumes of how special and unique a broadcaster and personality he was," he said.

Describing him as a "true legend of the industry", the director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston said Anderson was a "man of great wit and mischief" who would be sadly missed by his BBC colleagues and loyal listeners.

"This is a day of great sadness for everyone at Radio Foyle, Radio Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland, and of course our thoughts are with Gerry's wife and family," he said last night.

"Gerry was a man of great wit and mischief, but he also brought great wisdom and insight to what he did. Of course, he'll be sadly missed by all of us, but also by all his loyal listeners, for whom he often brought light on dark days over the decades.

"I think in Gerry's case – it's often said lightly but in his case truly, I don't think we'll ever see his like again."

Fellow broadcasters, politicians, celebrities and musicians were quick to pay tribute to the presenter, who launched his radio career in 1985.

Mickey Bradley, a member of The Undertones who worked with Anderson at Radio Foyle, said he "broke the mould".

"He was very funny off-air as he was on-air," Mr Bradley said.

"Every morning he was never in the studio earlier than two minutes before the programme started and, of course, many times he was late for his own show. His roots were in Derry, but because it was a working-class sense of humour, he connected with people in Belfast really well."

Radio Ulster and Radio Five Live presenter Stephen Nolan, who enjoyed on-air banter with Anderson during their morning hand-overs, described him as "a broadcasting genius".

Gerry's world

  • Gerry impersonated politicians, celebrities and media commentators including the DUP's Gregory Campbell and journalist Eamonn McCann reciting The Undertones' hit single Teenage Kicks.
  • Teaching his sidekick Sean Coyle how to chat up women – "If a woman comes up to you in a bar when you're standing there on your own and says hello to you, basically it means she wants you."
  • His on-air banter with a range of eccentric callers, including the woman whose friend owned a fainting hen, the man whose rooster got stuck up a tree and a caller whose home was under attack from a crow. "Have you ever watched the film The Birds?" he asked her. "If another 5,000 join him, then you're in trouble."
  • His fake tantrum on the animated television show On The Air, when he said to his sidekick "What do you call this show? Is this the Sean Coyle Show? No."
  • When asked to explain how he coined the phrase 'Stroke City' and where it was, he replied: "It's a city in the north west. It's beside the border, in Northern Ireland, but it doesn't know that. It's close to the border but doesn't want to be there either. It's like an independent statelet, Monaco without the money."

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