Monday 17 June 2019

Gloria's lessons in life and TV

MEMOIR: My Life, Gloria Hunniford, John Blake €25

Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Gloria Hunniford was a familiar face on television as I was growing up. She brought some sparkle to TV at a time when there was nothing but bad news from Northern Ireland.

Now in her 70s, she is still going strong on the afternoon TV programmes, Rip Off Britain and Loose Women.

Hunniford started singing in public at the age of seven with her father in a troupe of entertainers. As a teenager she set off to live in Canada. Leaving Ireland and seeing the wonders of the world had a powerful impact. On her return she released her first record. It went into the Ulster charts and soon after, BBC Belfast offered her a job.

From singing to news reporting, interviewing and presenting, Hunniford's talent is both natural and built on hard graft. She recalls hair-raising experiences as a young mother reporting on live bomb disposal in Belfast and the Abercorn restaurant bombing. At a time when it was very rare for women to break into media, Hunniford puts it down to gumption, naivety, right place, right time - but her memoir proves she clearly has exceptional energy and humanity.

She still finds it remarkable to have the same drive and desire to work that she had back then, but says it keeps her "sane, informed and interested in the world". She recently received her OBE and still looks full of joy, despite her life tragedies, the worst of which was losing her only daughter, Caron Keating, to cancer.

Hunniford does not hold back, whether it is sadness or joy. She recalls, with exuberance, meeting some of the greatest stars including Bette Davis, Charlton Heston, Audrey Hepburn, Sean Connery and David Bowie, staying friends with the likes of Cliff Richard and Julio Iglesias and the thrill of being happily married - her second husband is celebrity hairdresser Stephen Way - at this stage of her life.

In her 67 years of showbiz she has built a formidable brand. There is a lot to be learned from someone whose career spans seven decades and who is still working.

Hunniford's lesson: keep going!

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