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Gerry Anderson, genius of the airwaves - our personal memories

To mark the launch of podcasts and a new series about the much-missed star, former colleagues from Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle share their memories of what it was like working with him

BBC Radio Ulster’s Gerry Anderson
BBC Radio Ulster’s Gerry Anderson
A typically dapper Gerry Anderson in his radio studio
Gerry in the studio
Gerry Anderson and Sean Coyle

As BBC Radio Foyle turns 40, it's marking the occasion by celebrating the legend that was Gerry Anderson. The broadcaster first walked through the doors of BBC Radio Foyle in 1984 and quickly established himself as a hugely popular star.

His programme was soon picked up by BBC Radio Ulster and Gerry went on to become a much-loved household name before his untimely passing in 2014.

The vast majority of Gerry's treasure trove of programmes lies on the shelves of the BBC NI archives and now a selection of some of the best from his 30-year career is available as podcasts on BBC Sounds and other podcast providers. You'll receive five programmes right away on the day, followed by another two programmes every week after that.

A typically dapper Gerry Anderson in his radio studio

Join Gerry and Sean Coyle as they take a tour of LA, San Francisco and Las Vegas in 1991; a bus trip with Geordie Tuft to the Ulster Museum in 2010, and an infamous visit to Lord Dunleath's home in Ballywalter, Co Down, in 1988, when an antique vase was the unfortunate star of the show.

Conor McKay, who has produced both the podcasts and The Anderson Archive radio series, says: "On Gerry's show you never knew what was coming next. On one occasion a listener tried to find four baby chipmunks, another needed help with his love life, while a Tyrone listener needed a cure for a cow with warts on its teat.

Gerry in the studio

"All human life was there, as the saying goes. We hope these podcasts and radio programmes will bring a smile to listeners' faces. You might even get a few strange looks if you listen on your walk to work or the bus ride home, because you'll struggle to stop yourself laughing out loud!"

To celebrate the launch of the podcast there will also be a new series on BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle.

The Anderson Archive begins this Saturday on BBC Radio Ulster, featuring highlights from three decades of Gerry's show alongside a selection of his favourite music.

Here, some presenters from across BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle share personal memories of Gerry.

Ralph McLean : He’d spin a yarn like few others

Gerry was always an amazing storyteller. For a while I sat next to him in BBC Radio Foyle and you'd always be waiting for him to come in every morning because you knew you'd get a good laugh. He never hung around the studio or office for long once the show was over, he was generally out the door as the last record played and you never picked up his phone immediately after 12 as you'd be on with listeners for hours at a time if you did discussing hypnotising chickens and the like. That was the thing about Gerry, he could spin a yarn on air like few others and he was genuinely interested in people and their stories. That's a rare gift in this industry and people connected with that, I think.

I once produced a special that he did with Christy Moore in Dublin and Christy is notoriously shy of traditional interviews. Gerry knew that and immediately put him at his ease. Watching him casually charm Christy was like a masterclass in presenting skill. By the time we recorded the chat he and Gerry were just like two old mates shooting the breeze in the pub. Once the interview was over Gerry and I retired to the bar ourselves to put the world to rights and swap musical stories, but that's another story.

Karen Patterson I miss his laugh and I miss his wit

When I think of Gerry I think of mischief, "divilment"… an outrageous sense of fun.

Years ago now I was lucky enough to go to London with Gerry for the Radio Academy Awards. He was dressed top to toe in finest Donegal tweed - a proper dandy! We arrived at a hotel and he knew everyone there and they knew him. Gerry had a zest for life and a passion for people. I count myself lucky, like so many BBC Radio Ulster listeners, to have been exposed to his take on life over many years. Gerry was an utter professional who made the job we do look effortless. I miss his laugh and I miss his wit.

Mark Patterson He rarely, if ever, bought the buns

I was lucky enough to share the old studio 1A in Radio Foyle with Gerry for 13 years. It was the adventure of a lifetime. He was generous with his counsel. Utterly magnetic. And a cheeky monkey.

We laughed and ate a lot round the Radio Foyle kitchen. He rarely, if ever, bought the buns, preferring to steal everyone else's. We painted the town red in London. We fell out, and we made up again. We all celebrated his magnificent film premiere in Derry just before he passed. I did his slot a few times and kinda bombed. No one comes close to a talent like Gerry.

He was the funniest, most engaging man I've ever met. He told me he met the Queen and chatted casually with her in the Buckingham Palace back rooms. That he eventually traced down and found tax exile Josef Locke in a mysterious Irish castle. That he courted Liam Gallagher's mum back in the day in Manchester when he and Colum Arbuckle bought and shared a 24-inch waist suit. Who knows?

I know this, though, there will be few of us, once we pass, who bring a smile to the face every time their name is mentioned. That's still the case here in Foyle. Gerry was irrepressible, and remains irreplaceable. All of us here in Derry know how lucky we are to have journeyed some with him.

Walter Love: I used to phone in, trying to pull his leg

I believe that Gerry, when he was considering a move into broadcasting, once sent a tape of himself to an official of the BBC in Belfast for consideration. The reply he received was "I'm afraid I can do nothing for you". Happily his fortunes changed and the rest is history.

There was a time when I used to phone in to the Gerry Anderson Show, disguising my voice, to try to pull his leg. I might have been the chairman of the Limavady Tchaikovsky Appreciation Society complaining about the lack of Tchaikovsky on his programme. But after letting it run for a few minutes I was usually unmasked in the friendliest of ways. In fact, the only time I can remember him being speechless was on that infamous visit to the home of Lord Dunleath. When catastrophe happened a record was played to let him recover. It was a song called Rose Garden, which begins with the words "I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden..."

But to me a favourite memory of his genius was when a lady from North Down phoned in to complain bitterly about a disparaging remark he had made about the Brownies.

At first he was taking the mickey out of her and she didn't appreciate this. But he kept her on air for almost a full hour, and the conversation was fantastic.

By the end he was her greatest friend, and her gratitude to him was expressed very volubly.

That talent was unique, and is much missed by colleagues and listeners alike.

Lynette Fay: Every day was like a radio masterclass

10.30am from Monday to Friday was part of my body clock. If not listening already, I would turn on the radio to hear what Gerry was on about today. For me the Gerry Anderson Show was essential listening. Every day he was on air was a masterclass in radio. His wit, intellect, irreverence were second to none.

He had great taste in music. I respected his music choices, and loved how he championed and defended them when criticised by listeners.

The relationship he had with the audience is one that any broadcaster aspires to. Through his BBC Radio Ulster programme, the public thought that they knew Gerry, they wanted to know him.

He identified the value in the eccentric, because he was eccentric himself. Who else would have Geordie on air to talk about buck and she goats amongst other things, or Fonzie on to talk about UFOs. I loved the Dungiven car salesman too, and the embellished stories of his roguish days spent on the road with the showbands.

He walked a fine line with his wry sense of humour and extremely clued in view of the world. He was well informed and just got it. He left us much too soon. I was lucky to have known him and to have been offered the odd word of wisdom by him.

The day he referred to me as an "Indian" on air will stay with me forever. I treasure these memories dearly.

John Toal: I’d never heard anything like it

My earliest memory of listening to BBC Radio Ulster is when I was a student up in Belfast and living in halls. I discovered this show that started with a cock-crow and a piece of old BBC theme music from the Fifties. Maybe you'd have Joseph Locke singing "We'll make a bonfire of our troubles" in the mix as well. And that was only the first minute…

There were a number of people in the studio. An irreverent presenter, his producer sidekick, and an old former boxer called Tommy. Tommy was what we'd call now a "presenter's friend", someone to bounce off. He seemed to spend his time sitting in the corner chatting away as the presenter covered a mad variety of topics - including dancing on the radio.

I seem to remember he also played weird music and dealt with callers in a way I'd never heard before. He'd cut them off, he'd take the hand out of them, he'd let them ramble on while he whispered away to us listeners about how bored he was. I'd never heard anything like it. I never thought I'd ever meet Gerry Anderson. In a world of serious radio he was a shining light.

Stephen McCauley: He was the best broadcaster ever

I genuinely believe that Gerry Anderson was the greatest broadcaster there has ever been and, most likely, will ever be.

His show was like vitamin C for your mood. To paraphrase James Joyce, he held a mirror up and forced us to look (and laugh!) at ourselves.

Eavesdropping on the effortless genius of the simplest exchanges between himself and Sean Coyle wasn't just hilariously funny, it was comforting, consoling even.

The cast of listeners who got involved was also spectacular, especially Geordie. I vividly remember the morning that Geordie got into a heated exchange with a farmer who had phoned in. In the background, Gerry slowly faded up Duelling Banjos from the Deliverance soundtrack and, as the argument intensified and the voices got louder, the banjo picking got faster and faster. I thought I was going to have to be hospitalised, I was laughing so hard.

There were thousands of moments like this which is why the show was a joy to listen to every single morning.

The Gerry Anderson Show podcast is available now to download via BBC Sounds and usual podcast providers. The Anderson Archive begins this Saturday, March 9, BBC Radio Ulster, 10.30am

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