Saturday 16 December 2017

Family fury at RTE stars' love child claim

LARISSA NOLAN EXCLUSIVE THE family and friends of legendary satirist Frank Hall have expressed anger and upset at claims he had an affair and a love child with Ireland's first agony aunt Frankie Byrne, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

It will be claimed this week that Mr Hall and Ms Byrne conducted a 30-year affair which produced a love child.

But friends and family of the late Mr Hall have rubbished the allegations and are even more shocked by claims that the two had a daughter, Valerie McLoughlin, who is now in her 50s.

A friend of the family said: "The Halls are furious. They have always known that Frank was close to Frankie Byrne, but it was a friendship and not a relationship.

"There was never any evidence to prove otherwise.

"They feel it is upsetting and hurtful to Frank's elderly wife, Aideen, who has to listen to all of this talk years after her husband passed away."

Frank Hall's son Don Hall told the Sunday Independent that he was aware of the claims to be made in a new RTE documentary called Dear Frankie, but stressed he had not yet seen it.

Mr Hall, who runs a PR firm, said: "I have knowledge of the programme, I am aware this is happening. I know there will be a documentary that will allege/suggest a relationship between my father and Frankie Byrne and will allege/suggest some offspring of that relation-ship.

"But I think it would be unfair of me to comment until I have actually seen the documentary myself."

However, he said the content of the broadcast would not have an effect on the family's opinion on either their late father or the late Frankie Byrne.

"As I was the oldest, I knew Frankie from her friendship with my father as well as from media circles.

"I have always had the utmost respect and affection for Frankie and my regard for her will not be affected by this, no matter what the subject matter of the documentary."

A close friend of Frank Hall, PR consultant Sean O'Shea, said he had never been aware of an affair in all the years they had known each other.

"There was never an inkling of anything like that. I knew them both and they were friends, but he never mentioned anything of any affair," he insisted.

Tomorrow's broadcast will be the first time the relationship between Frank and Frankie is revealed to the public.

But talk of an affair between the two has always been rife according to author Patrick O'Dea, who wrote a book on Frankie Byrne's career as an agony aunt, also called Dear Frankie, in 1999.

Mr O'Dea explained: "My book was more of a look back at the kind of problems people were having and less about Frankie's personal life.

"But the story of her affair with Frank Hall and the baby was widely known, as were her problems with alcohol.

"For me it was a bit of dilemma as regards whether to write about it or not, but I decided not to go there."

Mr O'Dea also revealed that there is very little audio material left from the Frankie's Dear Frankie weekly show, which ran from 1963 to 1985.

"At the time, tapes were expensive and RTE taped over each show. So there are only a handful of her shows left, which is a great pity."

Frank Hall, who died 10 years ago, is now regarded as one of the most-loved TV personalities in RTE's history.

His show Hall's Pictorial Weekly ran from 1970 to 1982 and was hugely popular due to the host's talent for casting his satirical eye and sharp wit over the news of the day.

However, he was a reporter and rising star when he and Frankie, a well-known PR woman, first met.

Frankie became a household name in Ireland as the woman with the distinctive, husky voice who found solutions to problems on what was then called Raidio Eireann in a witty yet warm way.

The difficulties of those who wrote to her were reflective of Ireland in a more innocent time; for example, one woman wrote to ask if she could get pregnant sitting on her boyfriend's knee. Frankie Byrne advised her to have a chat with her mother.

Known as a fun-loving spirit, she was popular and attractive - although her outward personality was a mask for inner turmoil and a life more troubled than those who wrote to her.

After becoming pregnant in the Fifties, she gave her daughter up for adoption only to be so tormented by her decision that she turned to drink.

Her death in 1993 was alcohol related, doctors reported.

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