independent

Monday 21 April 2014

RTE's George Hamilton: My emergency heart surgery made me realise I was lucky

RTE presenter George Hamilton
RTE presenter George Hamilton

It began in August 2011, when the 61-year-old was rushed to St Vincent's Hospital from the Blackrock Clinic in Dublin to undergo emergency by-pass surgery after informing his GP that he couldn't breathe properly.

After battling back from serious illness, he will mark 2013 down as a year full of highs.

Not only did he play the proud parent giving away the first of his two daughters at her wedding -- he himself took a trip down the aisle and has since become a grandfather "by default".

After being hospitalised in 2011 he was missing from the airwaves for several weeks, and hundreds of fans around the country sent 'get well' cards to the national broadcaster.

Having made a full recovery and returning to work that December, Hamilton has had a different outlook on life.

"A thing like that makes you realise nothing is forever," he says.

"When you're faced with that predicament and you're being told it's fixable by doctors, all you can do is just get on with it, and so we did."

Hamilton had never had a major operation prior to "the episode" and although he did not suffer a heart attack, the situation was serious.

"There was something broken that simply needed fixing; I had faith in what lay ahead and I was lucky," he reflects.

With a renewed sense of vigour, Hamilton set about starting the next phase.

Hamilton married his second wife Linda on July 27, in an intimate civil ceremony in front of close family and friends.

The couple chose Tullyveery House in Co Down, run by Colm Heron.

"We're both second time around and wanted to do it somewhere special," he says.

"We had the reception in a marquee in a walled garden, with a string quartet playing in the corner, it was a fabulous day."

And being a music lover himself, Hamilton didn't opt for a traditional speech.

"I sang to my bride. I started off with 'Looking for Linda' and finished up with 'How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You'. I thought it would be a different kind of thing to do."

Between them, the newlyweds have five children and since their big day, have been blessed with more monumental family moments.

On November 3, Hamilton's stepdaughter Nikki gave birth to her first child, a son called James. Three weeks later, Hamilton's eldest daughter Emma married.

"The wedding was in Cork and it was sensational, everything about it," he says.

It is apparent things are going swimmingly in Hamilton's existence, on and off the pitch, and as the broadcaster from Belfast sums it up himself: "It's all beer and skittles at the moment."

Hamilton has been a household name for decades and famous for his work as a sports commentator, although he originally trained as a cellist and pianist before joining the BBC and subsequently RTE.

The contrast of commentating and his weekend programme 'Hamilton Scores' on RTE's Lyric FM makes for a happy mix.

"It's a lovely balance for me and I was very fortunate to be approached about it in the first place," he says.

The original idea was to keep the Saturday show the length of a football match, 90 minutes.

A decade later, it is now three hours long.

Then there's the day job and this summer's World Cup in Brazil to look forward to.

"My first World Cup working for RTE was in 1978 in Argentina and it has never been back in South America since," he says.

"I always felt it had to go back there and now that it finally is, I'm thrilled at the prospect of being a part of that. Brazil next year will be amazing."

Hamilton has no intention of hanging up his microphone.

Don't be surprised if you hear him reporting back from Russia in 2018, marking 40 years of World Cups in style.

Irish Independent

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