Friday 24 May 2019

Radio Veteran Gay is walking on air

75-year-old broadcaster 'thrilled' with top award

Gay Byrne pictured outside the RTE Radio Studio in
Donnybrook, Dublin
Gay Byrne pictured outside the RTE Radio Studio in Donnybrook, Dublin
Master of the airwaves Gay Byrne pictured in 1998 on the last day of his long-running RTE radio show
The broadcaster in his younger years
Gay in the RTE studio
Live on air during 'The Gay Byrne Hour' in 1982.
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

THE only surprise is that it has taken so long for Gaybo to get it.

Yesterday, in recognition of his 50 years on the wireless, the most famous Irish broadcaster in history was named as this year's recipient of the Outstanding Achievement PPI Radio Award.

The winners of the awards will be announced tonight in the Lyrath Estate in Kilkenny.

As such rewards generally herald the end or the beginning of the end, some recipients accept them only through gritted teeth. But Gay Byrne is unique, and professed himself "thrilled" with the award yesterday, while simultaneously pointing out that he would return to Lyric FM for another six-month stint from Sunday.

"It's very nice to be recognised as always and I've had my fair share of awards down through the years with the Jacob's Award and other awards," he told the Irish Independent.

"I'm only sorry I can't be there to accept it myself because I'm in France and won't get back in time. Aodhan O'Dubhghaill, of Lyric fm, is apparently accepting it on my behalf."

The 75-year-old joined Radio Eireann -- now RTE -- in 1958, and would achieve legendary status, first through his daily show on radio before he started his lengthy stint on 'The Late Late Show' on television.


"I decided when I was 14 or 15 that radio was what I wanted to do," he said yesterday. "[Broadcaster] Eamon Andrews was a great friend of my eldest brother, and he was just starting his career as a boxing commentator and became my hero.

"From then onwards, I realised I wanted to do something with radio. Really I got into it through jazz."

'The Gay Byrne Hour', and later 'The Gay Byrne Show', is credited with breaking many Irish social taboos down the years, with the presenter's willingness to tackle controversy head-on setting him apart from the crowd.

But he rates the longevity of his show among his proudest achievements.

"We were there for two hours every morning, five days a week for 27 years and I can't remember more than two or three days that I missed due to illness or anything else," he said.

The fourth season of his show on Lyric starts on Sunday afternoon.

"I enjoy doing that for six months of the year during the winter, that's about all I want to do, and we're going to do another series of 'The Meaning of Life' for TV, so that's enough to keep me occupied," he said.

This is the fifth year of the award, and previous winners include Marian Finucane and Jimmy Magee.

Irish Independent

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