Wednesday 18 September 2019

Grandchildren open door for Gay to embrace new family roles

Family story: Broadcasting legend Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins with grandchildren Cian, Saoirse and Sadhbh. PHOTO: VIP MAGAZINE
Family story: Broadcasting legend Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins with grandchildren Cian, Saoirse and Sadhbh. PHOTO: VIP MAGAZINE
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne says the closeness between his grandchildren and their parents is something very different to his time growing up.

In an interview with this month's issue of 'VIP Magazine', a somewhat reflective Byrne (86) says he cherishes every moment with his five grandchildren - and greatly admires the close relationship they enjoy with their parents.

"I cannot get over the amount of time my sons-in-law spend with their children between rugby and GAA and hurling and dancing and fiddle - and the closeness they have," he says.

"Because when I was growing up, and I know it was another era, but to my father, I was kind of irrelevant. I was the youngest. He was in his 50s, he wasn't a tough man or a bad man, I just didn't register with him.

"And I never went anywhere with him. Children were intended to be seen and not heard, but now there's such closeness," he says.

Gay has been married to fellow broadcaster and author Kathleen Watkins for 54 years, and the couple have two daughters, Suzy and Crona.

When speaking of his own parenting style, the broadcaster believes his recollections would be similar to those of other men of his age.

"I do [have regrets] because there are only brief snatches of them growing up that I do remember. But I'm in the same category as most men of my age," he said.

The former 'Late Late Show' host and chairman of the Road Safety Authority was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016. He praises Kathleen - his "rock" - and their family for helping him get through treatment, adding: "We are very lucky because many people have nobody around."

However, he says his bout of ill-health came as a major shock to him at first.

"I had 83 years of robust good health. Maybe if I'd had poorer health I would have been better able to cope?

"Maybe I would have been more used to doctors and nurses and hospitals?

"I had no experience of that whatsoever, and suddenly you're plunged into it overnight.

"And I couldn't cope," he says.

"However, we must remember that there are age-related illnesses and we have lived a very long and very comfortable life."

This year, Gay and Kathleen will be hosting Christmas festivities for their family at their home in Ballsbridge.

Irish Independent

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