Puppeteer leaves a loving legacy of laughter
THE country's leading puppeteer and one of its most popular entertainers died yesterday at the age of 82.
Eugene Lambert, whose creations on 'Wanderly Wagon' delighted generations of Irish children, and who performed a number of times for Michael Jackson, continued to work at his life's passion until the very end.
"He was still working, he was never somebody who would retire," Emily Tully said yesterday, adding that her grandfather's death had come as a huge shock to his wife Mai and the couple's eight surviving children.
"He's left a real legacy, he was a legend really, and it was a great childhood for all of us -- all of us have worked in the puppet theatre at some stage," said Ms Tully.
"He was a creative man and he loved children's entertainment. He never wanted to do anything other than that."
Mr Lambert was well-known for his role in the children's television series 'Wanderly Wagon' as "O'Brien" and the 1960s puppet series for children 'Murphy agus a Chairde'. He was also the brains behind kids' favourite, Bosco, who was voiced by his daughter, Paula.
'Wanderly Wagon' began in 1967, and all of the Lambert children worked on the show, which ran until 1982.
"Eugene would have been distinctive for his skills if he was a master puppeteer alone," RTE director-general Cathal Goan said yesterday.
"But his aptitude for comedy, character and drama led him and his family to forge a body of work and give an amount of pleasure that was unique and memorable.
"The puppet characters in 'Wanderly Wagon' -- Judge the dog, Mr Crow, Foxy Loxy, and the untrustworthy Ssneaky Ssnake are remembered with great fondness by generations of RTE viewers.
"Likewise Bosco became a central figure in the lives of young children for a generation. On behalf of all in RTE , I salute the talent and creativity, and the public contribution of Eugene Lambert."
A native of Sligo, Mr Lambert had a huge passion for puppets and ventriloquism as a young man and managed to turn that passion into a lifelong career.
He founded the Lambert Puppet Theatre in Monkstown, Co Dublin, in 1972, and was the driving force behind the International Puppet Festival of Ireland.
The Arts Council last night described him as "a committed and passionate artist who almost single-handedly put Ireland on the map in terms of puppet theatre".
"From his work on RTE with 'Wanderly Wagon', to his ongoing commitment to puppet theatre, he inspired a generation of puppet theatre makers, and delighted and entertained generations of Irish children and their parents," said the council's head of theatre, David Parnell.
Perhaps the puppeteer's most famous fan was the singer, Michael Jackson.
Jackson befriended Mr Lambert after playing a concert in Dublin in 1992, and Ms Tully said yesterday that Mr Lambert had once sung 'Happy Birthday' through one of his puppets to the pop star. Jackson also visited the theatre in Monkstown two years ago, bringing his three children with him.
The theatre is home to the country's largest collection of puppets and hosts family productions throughout the weekend. It holds up to 250 people.
"Eugene Lambert was a master of the art of puppetry," said Arts Minister Martin Cullen yesterday.
Mr Lambert's funeral Mass will take place on Friday at 10am at St Patrick's church in Monkstown.