Obituary: Richard Hannaford
A broadcaster and publisher who was to all he met the epitome of a true gentleman, writes Barry Egan
In the early hours of October 12, a great heart was stilled. After a short battle with cancer, broadcaster and publisher Richard Hannaford died at the Blackrock Hospice. His wife Norah Casey, more well known as a dragon on RTE's Dragon's Den, sent me a message at 9am that morning.
"My darling Richard passed away peacefully holding my hand in the early hours of this morning," it read. "Thank you to all the family and friends who helped him and Dara and I on his final journey..."
That journey continued to the University Church on Stephen's Green at 6.30pm last Friday week for the removal service and the following morning to Mount Jerome Crematorium in Harold's Cross for the final goodbye.
It was the same church in which Norah and Richard were married in on New Year's Eve in 1996, followed by a black tie dinner in the Shelbourne Hotel .
Both worked in the media -- she in publishing and he at the BBC. They met at a press dinner in London in 1992. They knew each other for around a year in a work capacity before beginning to date in 1993. She was the love of Richard's life; and he of hers.
Richard, who was diagnosed with cancer in May, went into the hospice only 13 days before he passed away.
"Our hearts are broken but Dara and I had to let him go. He's at peace now and God knows he fought his illness with great courage these past few months," Norah said referring to their 12- year-old son Dara, adding "we will miss him enormously and we have been greatly comforted by the support of good friends and family."
Richard, who was born in London on May 17, 1962, is also survived by his mother Adria, his brother Simon and stepfather, Jim.
He joined the BBC in 1985 as a trainee reporter where he worked for 17 years. He moved to Ireland in 2002. He produced and presented the 10-part RTE documentary series The Truth about the Health Service, which won the Irish Health Writers Guild Broadcaster of the Year (2003) award and the UK's National Health Correspondent of the Year (2001) award. He was a member of the board of the Health Information and Quality Authority. He and Norah also ran Harmonia, the company that publishes U, Women's Way and Irish Tatler among others.
Together, they were the life and soul of many dinner parties and social gatherings around the country.
Fellow dragon on Dragon's Den Niall O'Farrell, who is a close friend of the couple, said: "I'd call him an absolute gentleman of gentleman. It is a terrible loss for Norah and terribly sad that someone so good should go so early."
Margaret Nelson, the CEO of radio station FM104, said that Richard will be "a great loss both professionally and personally. He commanded dignity and respect in every thing he did. He also sang a great version of The Tax Man Has Taken All My Dough. Joe and I will miss him so much," Margaret said referring to her husband Joe Nally.
Another close friend of Norah's, Claire Ronan, said that "Richard was the epitome of a gentleman. He was so generous with his love."
"Everyone who knew my darling Richard would say he was a true gentleman," Norah Casey said. "He was a gentle soul who didn't deserve to die so tragically. We would have been married 15 years this New Year's Eve and I can honestly say that we lived life to the full together.
"We didn't have much luck throughout Richard's short illness," she added. "He was diagnosed on his birthday in May and the cancer was relentless despite the interventions of great oncology teams at St James', St Luke's and St Vincent's.
"We were so fortunate that he had his final days with the wonderful staff at Blackrock Hospice, they were amazing and helped to prepare Richard, Dara, and I for his death."