Monday 20 January 2020

The women who shared in a remarkable life journey

It wasn't only the housewives who loved Ryan

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Blessed was he amongst women: he flirted outrageously, listened empathically and waded into female taboo topics like no other man dared to on or off the airwaves.

This weekend, a nation of housewives will be mourning Gerry Ryan and the immense joy he brought them.

Each morning female callers could habitually use the 'Ryan Line' to chat to each other, share their grief and joy, as Gerry chimed in with a cheeky remark or sympathetic word where needed.

Whether it was discussing 10 ways to look younger or the torment of a rape victim, Gerry handled each subject with the sensitivity and a temperament that came naturally to the master of the airwaves.

Off air, too, his appeal knew no bounds, and in the early years women young and old couldn't keep their hands off him.

During the Beat On The Street era colleagues recalled how they had to hire security because "women would be throwing themselves at him" and legend had it he even took to wearing a cricketer's box because of "the sheer number of females who used to reach down to give him a good squeeze".

Fiona Looney described how it was "a testosterone-pumping engine" that fuelled his fascination with women and the support team that he surrounded himself with was undoubtedly a contributing factor in his success.

Here we list the main female influences in his life other than his wife of 26 years, Morah.

The girlfriend: Melanie Verwoerd

Just over six months after his marriage split was announced, the 2FM presenter -- who was finding life alone incredibly difficult -- began dating the former South African ambassador to Ireland, Melanie Verwoerd.

The 42-year-old quickly captured his heart and her hazel eyes and infectious smile ignited Gerry's personal life once more.

Animated and bursting with energy, just like Gerry, the pair took to Dublin's social scene with gusto and Gerry became a regular fixture at UNICEF events -- the charity of which Melanie is an executive director.

Although shy at first at publicity surrounding their relationship, they had become more comfortable in the spotlight in recent times.

Shortly before Christmas Melanie could be seen with her arms around Gerry looking lovingly into his eyes in the lobby of the Berkley Court Hotel.

The radio wife: Fiona Looney

Self-titling herself Gerry's 'radio wife', Fiona Looney knew more about the man than the average missus -- from his high-cholesterol count to his signature aftershave Issey Miyake.

The pair ignited the airwaves in recent years with a weighty mix of spirited debates and feisty opinions.

She was the stable force that reeled him back in when his opinions got out of hand and the housewives of the nation wanted to give him a smack on the wrist, while at the same time matching his bold outlook on life with some piquant musings of her own. She was the yin to his yang and everything in between. But it was very much a two-way relationship.

Speaking about Gerry recently she described him as a "canny adviser" and "ally" who had helped her out of many sticky situations within Montrose. Summing up their close bond she said: "I know that on and off air we have a lovely chemistry that allows us to bring out the best and worst in each other. I know that the real Gerry Ryan is the radio Gerry Ryan, only worse, and that I'm mad about this radio husband of mine. For better or for worse."

Brenda Donohue

In recent months Gerry Ryan said that one of his biggest regrets was that the Kildare woman was no longer part of his radio team.

Speaking about Gerry, Brenda, who worked with him for 15 years, described him as a "theatrical person" and a "complete entertainer''.

The daughters

The most important thing in his life was undoubtedly his children. And in recent times his daughters in particular have been making their own special mark in the world of showbusiness.

Bonnie had already supported Westlife at the O2 in Dublin with her band Lady Nada and she had caught the eye of talent scouts who said she had the drive and talent to make a name for herself.

And last year his daughter Lottie, a journalism and media graduate, was the first of his children to leave the family home as she travelled to New York to broaden her horizons.

It was in the moment that Gerry spoke of the flight of his eldest daughter with great emotion that his 320,000-strong audience got to see where the true soft spot lay for the straight-talking shock jock.

"It's one of those bittersweet moments. I'm excited for her and almost in tears at the thought of my baby leaving. I caught sight of a photo she gave me a couple of months ago. It was taken 23 years ago and it's of me in the bath with her as a baby. It was like looking through a peephole in a time machine."

Lottie described what it was like to have her dad tell the nation about her personal milestones: "I've never known any different. When I was young it was just normal to me and then as I got older I realised, 'Oh, hang on a sec, not everyone's dad does this'."

Sunday Independent

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