Gerry Anderson: Veteran BBC broadcaster dies aged 69 after long illness
Tributes paid to one of Northern Ireland's best loved radio presenters
Gerry Anderson, one of Northern Ireland's best-known broadcasters, has died aged 69 following a long illness.
Anderson had been off-air for almost two years due to ill-health.
In a career spanning 30 years, the presenter hosted radio and TV programmes for BBC Radio Ulster, Radio Foyle and BBC Northern Ireland.
Anderson was also a former columnist at the Belfast Telegraph.
Director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, described the award-winning radio and TV broadcaster as a "true legend of the industry".
"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 had the great pleasure of being in London on the occasion when Gerry was awarded the Hall of Fame for the UK Radio Academy, which just demonstrated what a true legend of the industry he was, a really significant figure.
"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."
Former SDLP leader John Hume paid a warm tribute to the broadcaster, who he said was a held in such high regard by many.
"Gerry was a unique character, and Derry and the BBC are a poorer place for his passing," he said.
"I had such high regard for Gerry who put a smile on the faces of so many people.
"Pat and I extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Christine and the family, and to all of Gerry's colleagues."
Fellow broadcaster, Gerry Kelly, said: "We here in the BBC and Radio Ulster were just expecting Gerry to come back at some stage.
"He wanted privacy throughout his illness and we granted him his privacy."
SDLP MP for Foyle, Mark Durkan said Londonderry had "lost a very special son".
"Gerry Anderson earned a special standing with his wit, warmth, his way with words and his off-the-cuff, on-the-button observations," he said.
"He was appreciated and respected in a way he never cultivated. He had a natural style but never styled himself for the status or the eminence he achieved, or the special connection that everyone felt with him.
"Derry has lost a very special son, an unceremonious ambassador, and broadcasting has lost a limited edition of one."
Anderson began his career as a radio presenter in 1984 and went on to become a household name in Northern Ireland.
Born in Londonderry/Derry, he coined the alternative name "Stroke City" in a nod to the endless contention over what his home town should be called.
Awards and accolades
Anderson, a former teacher and showband guitarist, was named Broadcaster of the Year three times and won a Regional Presenter of the Year award in 2004.
In 2005 he became the first broadcaster from Northern Ireland to be inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame.
In 2006, Gerry became a clay model for the animated television series On The Air, which featured real, unedited clips from his BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle programme.
On The Air, which returned for a further two series, highlighted the bizarre and often hilarious conversations Gerry had on air with Sean, his listeners and occasionally himself as he, Sean and many of the colourful characters who called into his programme where turned into Claymation models.
Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said Gerry Anderson was a "broadcasting pioneer".
"He had an inordinate wit which brought joy to so many," she said.
"He could be scathing and endearing, and was often both at the same time. But his humour was based in a real affection for his home town of Derry and the north, and listeners loved him for it."
Fellow Radio Ulster broadcaster Stephen Nolan - who shared many on-air exchanges with Anderson during their show handovers - said his often lack of preparation was "a sign of his genius".
"I loved his danger, his cheekiness, during the handovers, it was probably only the time I got terrified," he said.
"That's when he got close to the edge."
Another BBC man who knew Anderson well, Hugo Duncan, said his colleague and friend always "treated you as an equal".
In an emotional tribute, Duncan described Anderson as "an old comrade".
"I remember when I got up this morning, and heard it on the news, it brought a tear to my eye," he said.
"At the time, I couldn't have talked about it. It was so tragic.
"He was always there, always greeted you. I came in as a real novice, but he treated you as an equal."
Paying tribute, Fergus Keeling, head of radio, BBC Northern Ireland, said: “Gerry was possibly the cleverest man I've ever known. He was also naturally funny and he had an unmatched style of broadcasting in radio in Northern Ireland.
Larry Deeney, editor, BBC Radio Foyle, said: When I arrived at BBC Radio Foyle as a young journalist, I was in awe of Gerry Anderson. Growing up in Derry, everyone knew his name, his face and most of all his voice," he said.
"I quickly realised that in Foyle, Gerry was just part of the team: approachable, intelligent and most of all very, very funny.
"I don’t think anyone had ever heard anything like those programmes that he broadcast with Sean Coyle over the years and I know we never will again.
"Everyone here at Foyle will miss him more than I can say. I would like to send our deepest condolences to Gerry’s family."
BBC director general Tony Hall said Anderson was a "distinctive and iconic voice in radio in Northern Ireland and beyond".
"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.
"His long-running, mid-morning show on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle will be missed by his listeners. Gerry will be missed by his friends and colleagues in the BBC."
Ulster Unionist Party leader and former journalist Mike Nesbitt MLA expressed his sadness at the news.
"Gerry was an unchained and irrepressible spirit who liberated BBC Radio Ulster at a time when local broadcasting was dominated by rules. Gerry couldn't spell 'rules' and he helped free up all of us who were presenters on Radio Ulster in the 1980s and beyond," Mr Nesbitt said.
"He was also a very generous, encouraging man who had no fear of rival talent."
Mr Nesbitt added: "I first worked with him at an Ulster Grand Prix when I was a sports presenter and he arrived as a roving reporter in white shoes on a dark, wet Saturday when the paddock was a sea of mud. He simply did not see what the problem was.
"My condolences to his wife Christine, and broader family. The BBC is a poorer place today.”
In a joint statement, First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness paid tribute to Gerry Anderson.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Gerry Anderson. Gerry was a hugely talented broadcaster with an irrepressible personality who will be greatly missed.
"In many ways his unpredictable style and wit on TV and radio was ahead of its time and he undoubtedly had an influence on the younger generation of broadcasters.
"Gerry’s long and varied career is a tribute to the loyalty he inspired. Throughout his broadcasting career his warmth, energy and sheer enthusiasm attracted legions of devoted fans.
"The world of broadcasting will be all the quieter without Gerry in it. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Christine and family at this difficult time."
The roar of the cow
Gerry Anderson brightened all our lives,as a broadcaster he had few equals.My sympathy to his wife Christine,their family & #BBC colleagues.— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) August 21, 2014
Very sad news to hear of the death of Gerry Anderson. What a super lad he was. Broadcasting legend.— Adrian Logan (@OurLogie) August 21, 2014
Just heard of death of Gerry Anderson, wonderful gifted & talented broadcaster & funniest writer of his time Condolences to family & friends— Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (@newbelfast) August 21, 2014
Very sad to learn of the death of Gerry Anderson. A great presenter and all round entertainer. A huge loss. Thoughts&prayers with his family— Ian Paisley (@ianpaisleymp) August 21, 2014
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