Gerry Anderson: Broadcaster dies after long illness

Maggie Taggart looks back at Gerry Anderson's broadcasting career

Gerry Anderson, one of Northern Ireland's best-known presenters, has died aged 69 following a long illness.

In a career spanning 30 years, he hosted radio and TV programmes for BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio Foyle and BBC Radio 4.

BBC Director General Tony Hall said he was a "distinctive and iconic voice".

"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.

Gerry Anderson started working as a radio presenter in 1984 and went on to become a household name in Northern Ireland.

Award-winning programmes

He began his broadcasting career with BBC Radio Foyle in his native Londonderry, a place he famously renamed Stroke City.

His show was picked by BBC Radio Ulster, and he formed a successful on-air partnership with fellow broadcaster, Séan Coyle.

Gerry Anderson presented a show on BBC Radio Foyle and BBC Radio Ulster with Séan Coyle

The pair's comic bickering and banter became a constant feature of their morning phone-in show.

Mr Coyle said it had been "an absolute pleasure to work with Gerry".

"He always brought a smile to my face and I had the ability to do the same to him," he said.

"In 30 years of working together, there was never a cross word spoken. I knew him so well. It just hasn't sunk in yet."

Banter

Irish country singer Daniel O'Donnell, a frequent guest on the programme and the subject of many Coyle impersonations, said his family had lost a "very, very incredible person".

"I got to know Gerry very early in my career," he said.

"Somebody told me, 'your record was on the radio and the man playing the record put a rooster on just after you'd started to sing'. From there on the banter began.

"There's a great sadness in Gerry's passing, Isn't it strange that there's a smile on everybody's tribute to him? There's a laugh with the sadness."

Anderson also made a number of TV series and documentaries for BBC Northern Ireland, and had a brief spell in London as a presenter on BBC Radio Four.

His Radio Four show received hostile reviews and marked a low point for the presenter, both personally and professionally, but he continued to make award-winning programmes for BBC Northern Ireland.

'Light on dark days'

He was named as the Best Regional Presenter at the Royal Television Society journalism awards in 2004.

The following year, he received the ultimate accolade for his services to broadcasting when he was inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame.

His daily programme on BBC Radio Ulster attracted dedicated fans, but almost two years ago, he stopped broadcasting because of illness.

Gerry Anderson was inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame in 2005 Gerry Anderson was inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame in 2005

Describing him as a "true legend of the industry", the director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, said his BBC colleagues and many listeners would miss him.

"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.

"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."

'Heart and soul'

Mickey Bradley, Gerry Anderson's Radio Foyle producer called the late presenter "irreplaceable"

His friend and fellow broadcaster, Gerry Kelly, said he was "one of the most innovative and clever broadcasters" he had ever known and would be sorely missed.

Mickey Bradley, a member of the Undertones who worked with the late broadcaster in BBC Radio Foyle said Gerry Anderson "broke the mould".

"He was very funny off-air as he was on-air," Mr Bradley said.

"Every morning he was never in the studio earlier than two minutes before the programme started and, of course, many times he was late for his own show."

Clay figure of Gerry Anderson, made for the programme On the Air A clay animation figure of Gerry Anderson was created for the BBC Northern Ireland series On the Air in 2011, which showcased extracts from his funniest phone-in programmes

Mr Bradley added: "His roots were in Derry, but because it was a working-class sense of humour he connected with people in Belfast really well."

Another former colleague, broadcaster Joe Mahon, said Gerry Anderson the broadcaster was different from the quiet, "reserved" man he remembers, away from the microphone.

"He had a public persona certainly, and that was performance," Mr Mahon said.

"He put his heart and soul into it, but he also kept an awful lot of himself to himself and to his family."

'Best friend'

Gerry Anderson is survived by his wife Christine, his children David and Kirsty and his two grandchildren Sarah and Thomas.

Describing him as a "beautiful and loving husband", Christine Anderson said Gerry Anderson had "touched the hearts and lives of all who knew him and who followed him".

She added: "I have been overwhelmed with the love expressed for Gerry, even in the few short hours since he passed away.

"I always knew that Gerry was hugely popular. His humour, intellect, creativity and talent made him a great broadcaster."

Mrs Anderson said he had been "the most courageous and best friend anyone could ever have", and that the Anderson family were "immensely proud" of how he had dealt with his illness.

"He will always be an inspiration to us all," she said.

"As a family, David, Kirsty and I are heartbroken but we know the prayers, good wishes and love of the public will help sustain us at this terrible time."

Mrs Anderson said she understood people would want to "show their love and appreciation for Gerry in a public way", but asked that people respect the family's privacy in the coming days.

Gerry Anderson's funeral will take place on Sunday at 11:00 BST at St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry.

Mourners are invited to attend to pay their respects, or donations can be made to the Foyle Hospice in lieu of flowers.

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