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'Gerry helped me think about the industry I was starting to work in'

Mark Patterson (47) lives in Londonderry and presents Lunchtime with Mark Patterson each weekday on BBC Radio Foyle. He says:

For me, there are a couple of heroes who really stand out - Gerry Anderson is one and Seamus Heaney is another.

I was very lucky in that I got to work with Gerry every day for years. I was a young fellow managing a YMCA, but I came into Radio Foyle to do bits and pieces and Gerry would listen to them. I couldn't believe it.

This was the guy whose radio show got me through my final exams. Everyone worshipped him. And the next thing I knew, I was working in the same building as him.

He was always very generous, particularly as I was still a bit wet behind the ears. He would sit me down and tell me what was good and bad about what I was doing and help me to think about the industry I was starting to work in. I was very lucky to get to know him.

Gerry talked about the importance of language and he always made me think about how I said things.

He told me that it didn't matter if you were on Radio 1, the World Service, or Radio Foyle: if you connect with your audience as a DJ, then you should never, ever, take it for granted. That's something that's always stuck with me.

Seamus Heaney was also a huge influence in my life. I met him a couple of times, but any time I was in his company, I was so nervous, because of the regard I had for him.

I interviewed him a couple of times and both interviews were awful. I tried to tell a joke, but he didn't get the joke. I wished the ground would swallow me up.

Academics will see an other-worldly connection to his work, but, for me, Seamus was always in our world and we knew what he was talking about.

For me, his poems are like signposts for life. His books, I feel, are like the Arc of the Covenant, because inside you find such sacred items. They're some of the most precious things I own."

Belfast Telegraph


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