Belfast Telegraph

Gloria Hunniford: Leaving Northern Ireland at 17 changed my life forever

Gloria Hunniford has said leaving Northern Ireland at the age of 17 for Canada changed her life forever and "broadened my horizons".

The Portadown-born broadcaster, 77, was speaking to This Morning's Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby ahead of the release of her memoir.

Explaining about her time in Canada, Gloria told the pair: "(It) changed my life forever. Back in Portadown it was Catholic schools in one end of the town, Protestant schools in the other, but when I went to Canada nobody cared what religion I was.

"I learned very quickly that all colours, creeds, everybody could live together and that absolutely broadened my horizons forever."

The star also spoke about her time as a broadcaster for the BBC in Belfast during the Troubles.

She said: "I was on air one day doing a programme and there was a car bomb at the base of the studio wall and the whole building was evacuated.

"I did have the choice to leave but I opted to stay.

"The bomb went off and dust and rubble came out of the walls. I just kept broadcasting and explained to people what was happening.

"Our Head of Programmes came round with a bottle of brandy and the only thing I'd ever drank at that point was a Tia Maria or sherry. By the end of the programme I was a puce colour - it was probably the best broadcast I ever did."

The release of Gloria's book will be preceded by her receiving an OBE at Buckingham Palace on Friday.

The TV presenter will receive the accolade in the Queen's Birthday Honours for her contributions to cancer charities through breast screening services and cancer support.

Gloria lost her daughter Caron Keating, also a TV presenter, to breast cancer in 2004 just hours after she was brought home for the last time to see her family, including her two sons.

After Caron's death, Gloria and her sons Paul and Michael set up the Caron Keating Foundation, which gives grants to all types of cancer charities in the UK.

"Getting the OBE is very humbling because it's not for showbusiness," she said. "This is for the foundation and it was a cancer charity that actually nominated me, it was Action Cancer in Belfast."

My Life by Gloria Hunniford, Blake Publishing, is out on October 19.

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