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From Farming Ulster to the breakfast telly sofa: Eamonn's 35 years as a national TV treasure

By Claire McNeilly

Published 29/09/2015

Eamonn Holmes hosting Farming Ulster in 1980
Eamonn Holmes hosting Farming Ulster in 1980
Eamonn with May McFettridge
Eamonn presenting Telethon in 1988
Eamonn with his first car
Eamonn with his partner Ruth Langsford and their newborn baby, Jack

Eamonn Holmes has come a long way from the farming programme on UTV.

After 35 years on the box, the charismatic Ulsterman is now one of television's most in-demand personalities, while he and wife Ruth Langsford have become the undisputed golden couple of daytime television.

The 55-year-old Belfast native's no-nonsense presenting style - which has occasionally landed him in trouble with his bosses but endeared him to millions of fans - has made him a fabulously wealthy man.

And this Thursday, the twice-married star will be celebrating three-and-a-half decades in TV.

With four of the UK's top five broadcasters regularly employing him, multi-millionaire Eamonn's stock has never been higher.

It's a scenario he surely could not have dreamed of when he started off as a raw recruit at UTV's Havelock House, following a one-year stint as a trainee manager at Primark.

"I started at Farming Ulster on October 1, 1980 - there's a picture of me holding a lamb in that first episode," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Myself and a crew went filming in Ballyclare. It was snowing, and the lamb piddled all over me.

"But even though it was snowing and I was wet and dishevelled and had a lamb wetting the front of my coat, I was outside, meeting people and seeing life beyond a department store.

"I was determined to succeed and not end up back in a job that I couldn't do, so I concentrated on being a good reporter."

Eamonn's day job these days is as anchorman on the Sky News Sunrise programme. But he and Ruth (55) also present This Morning for ITV every Friday and during the holidays.

In addition, the father-of-four is an occasional presenter on Songs Of Praise and other programmes for BBC, and he and Ruth, his second wife, have just landed a series on Channel 5, interviewing the rich and famous.

His talent and potential was recognised almost instantly by UTV, who made him the youngest anchor on British television when he was just 21 years old.

"While everyone else in my journalism class at Belfast's College of Business Studies were saying they wanted to write for newspapers, I knew I wanted to be a TV reporter," he said.

"I was so focused - that was all that I wanted to do.

"It was amazing that UTV had that faith in me.

"Nobody on TV is given an anchor job at 21.

"When I look back now I just think 'wow'. I was useless at most things, but I knew how to handle a TV studio."

"I was very lucky that I had a mentor in Jackie Fullerton (former sports presenter).

"He taught me to write as I speak - that was the start of me being as natural as I could be, and that's what I'm known for."

Holmes and Langford have a 13-year-old son, Jack, and Eamonn has three other children - Declan (28), Rebecca (24) and Niall (22) - with first wife Gabrielle.

Eamonn is second only to Jeremy Clarkson in terms of earning power in UK broadcasting. But what would he do if he was not a TV presenter?

"I'd loved to have been a barrister or doctor but I wasn't brainy enough," he said. "I think I'd have been a barman. I used to finish work at UTV at 7pm and work behind the bar at the (now closed) Christian Brothers Past Pupils Union.

"I did the news and then did the bar because I was worried the TV business wouldn't work out."

And what is the best and worst thing about being famous?

"For 35 years my life hasn't been my own," he said. "I've been well known for longer than I haven't been. The best thing is how nice people can be to you - and the worst is how awful people can be to you.

"I thought that I was a really popular guy. I never got any hate mail, but then Twitter came along and I realised how much bile people had stored up.

"They hate the look of my face, they hate my voice, the very fact that I breathe, and they want to go to great lengths to tell me so."

Despite his success, the former UTV presenter said he would never forget his roots.

"I don't know if I'm a good broadcaster, a good husband, a good father, but I do know for sure that I am a good Belfast man," he added.

"First and foremost that's what I am. That's what makes me come alive.

"If I could broadcast Sky News from Belfast and be there all the time, I would be."

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