Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to BBC presenter Anderson

Tributes have been paid to the irreverent and often anarchic broadcaster Gerry Anderson after he lost a long battle with illness.

The death of the popular BBC Radio Ulster presenter was announced this morning, almost two years after ill health forced him off the airwaves.

BBC director general Tony Hall hailed the 69-year-old as a "distinctive and iconic voice".

The former show band guitarist had a 30-year career in broadcasting. His professional highlights included his 2005 induction into the UK Radio Hall of Fame, while his brief and ill-fated spell on Radio 4 a decade earlier was undoubtedly a low.

Anderson also hosted a number of TV programmes on BBC Northern Ireland but it was his contribution to Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle for which he will be most fondly remembered.

His quirky and humorous morning phone-in show, which he presented with long-time friend and colleague Sean Coyle, had a legion of loyal fans.

Coyle, who has hosted the programme on his own for the past two years, presented the show this morning, insisting it was what Anderson would have wanted.

Mr Hall said attaining a place in the radio hall of fame spoke volumes of how "special and unique a broadcaster and personality he was".

"His long-running, mid-morning show on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle will be missed by his listeners," he added.

"Gerry will be missed by his friends and colleagues in the BBC."

Born in Londonderry/Derry, Anderson coined the alternative name Stroke City in a nod to the endless political contention over what his home town should be called.

Former SDLP leader and Foyle MP John Hume paid tribute.

"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."

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, himself a former broadcaster at the BBC, said: "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.

"He was also a very generous, encouraging man who had no fear of rival talent."

Director of BBC Northern Ireland Peter Johnston paid tribute to the veteran broadcaster, who is survived by his wife Christine.

"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.

"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."

Anderson failed to repeat his regional success in his spell broadcasting nationally on BBC Radio 4.

His afternoon show in the mid-1990s received mixed reviews and he soon returned to Radio Ulster, though he continued to make documentaries for Radio 4.

Simon Elmes, creative director of Radio 4's Documentaries Unit and a producer who worked closely with Anderson, said he was a "broadcaster to the roots of his being".

"He loved talking to people, preferably live, and did so with style, panache, love... and daring," he said.

"He had a stunt pilot's disregard for his own safety and loved to push to the edge of acceptability at times - and his free-running tongue got him into a number of scrapes over the years.

"But he cared about words and the way they could be used to express subtle ideas and shades of opinion. Not for nothing did he coin the now legendary expression to describe the embattled and once brutally divided city of Derry-stroke-Londonderry as Stroke City.

"The gallows humour, delivered with the vocal mastery of an Alistair Cooke, was part of the Gerry Anderson persona. And a particularly wicked play on words - usually at some pompous oaf's expense and spoken deadpan-flat in front of the microphone - was always accompanied, off-air, by a gleeful cackle. Not to say that Gerry was ever unkind; he was the soul of benevolence and generosity.

"Radio 4, which knew the best of Gerry's wordsmithing, is a quantum poorer by his departure."

Fergus Keeling, head of radio at 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.

"We spent an afternoon together just two days before he got the news about his recent illness and he made me laugh so much I didn't want our conversation to end.

"He was a much-loved member of the BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle family and we shall miss him so, so much. His charm, his wicked wit and his searing insights on life endeared him to us and, of course, his thousands of listeners. I cherish the lovely hug he gave me the last time we met."

Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness expressed their sympathy.

In a joint statement, Northern Ireland's political leaders said: "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."

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