Puppeteer Eugene Lambert dies at 81
Puppeteer Eugene Lambert has died suddenly at the age of 81.
The Sligo-born performer and star of TV show Wanderly Wagon passed away at his home in Monkstown, Co Dublin, on Monday night.
An early passion for puppets and ventriloquism became a lifelong career for Mr Lambert, who counted the late pop superstar Michael Jackson among his many fans.
The father-of-10, who was due to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with wife Mai this summer, opened his own Lambert Puppet Theatre in 1972 and was also a driving force behind the International Puppet Festival of Ireland.
Jackson befriended the veteran puppeteer after playing a concert in Dublin in 1992 and visited him again with his three children on his birthday in August 2007.
Emily Tully said her grandfather, who sang Happy Birthday through one of his puppets to Jackson, was a big fan of the pop star.
"If he meets Michael Jackson up there he'll tell him 'I was a big supporter of you', he was so proud of that visit," she said.
Arts Minister Martin Cullen said Mr Lambert would be sadly missed.
"Eugene Lambert was a master of the art of puppetry and his place in Irish theatre is unparalleled, both in the quality and uniqueness of his work as a puppeteer and ventriloquist and for the longevity of his contribution," he said.
Ms Tully said his death had come as a huge shock to his wife and eight remaining children.