Pair on the same wavelength
RTE's Shay Byrne and his wife Linda are natural performers, always up for banter and a bit of fun
When RTE DJ Shay Byrne was on holidays with his girlfriend Linda Nolan in Playa del Ingles back in 1999, he asked her if she was free during the October bank holiday of 2000. Luckily she was, because he had gone ahead and booked the Glenview Hotel in Wicklow for their wedding. And that was how he proposed!
Shay, who presents Risin' Time, is as genial and warm off mic as he is when on it, while Linda, who teaches singing at a children's performing arts school, is equally charming. Though he says that the thing that drives him mad about her is that she loves to talk to people, and could easily stay on the phone for an hour, he's pretty chatty himself!
Shay and Linda met through the Stillorgan Musical Company, aka SMCO, in 1996. They kissed while out on a group social night, and Shay then phoned Linda to ask her out on a date. She was powerless to resist -- after all, he does have that sexy DJ voice and he deployed it to devastating effect.
"I was melting on the phone at that voice and I thought he had lovely eyes too," says Linda, 43. "What I liked about Shay was that he is very strong. I had tended to be the strong one in relationships, but with Shay, I felt I could depend on him and he was able to make deci- sions and had a real 'can-do' attitude."
"What I liked about Linda, apart from her looks, is that she's very feisty," says Shay, 40. "I'm a joker and a messer and she'd fire it straight back at me, better than I had given it to her, so that was interesting. We both liked the banter and were always up for fun."
When they met, Shay, from Artane, was 23 and Linda was 26. He's the second youngest of Hilda and Shay Byrne's five children. His dad had a painting and decorating business, but sadly passed away aged 63 in 2000 from liver cancer -- the same year that Shay and Linda bought their house in Dundrum and got married.
Shay had a colourful career prior to joining RTE. He studied management accountancy in Carlow, but left as he hated it, and worked for a mobile phone company and video equipment company. Then he went to work in his dad's painting and decorating business, ultimately taking it over, and he was joined there by his brother Maurice, a former chief inspector with the DSPCA. He says that meeting Linda changed his life, as did joining the musical society, because he discovered that he could sing, and really enjoyed all the shows they participated in. As his confidence in his performing abilities grew, he started working part-time with an events company, doing everything from dressing up as a banana to hand out fruit samples, to MC-ing social events.
In 2005, Linda spotted an ad for part-time continuity announcers for RTE Radio One and encouraged Shay to apply. Naturally enough, his mellifluous voice and easy manner worked in his favour, and he was selected for training. He loved the whole environment of RTE and once in there, began helping out on various shows. He credits Ryan Tubridy for mentoring and encouraging him, and worked on various shows with Ryan and Derek Mooney.
Having sold the painting and decorating business, he started filling in for shows when they needed cover and also became the voice of Winning Streak. The experience he gained ultimately led to him being offered Risin' Time last year, when Maxi retired from the show after years at the helm. He loves it, he says, even if getting up at 4am can play havoc with your family life.
Linda and Shay have three children, Holly, 8, Jack, 7, Kate, 4, and when Shay comes off air, he sometimes gets home in time to drop them to school. He and Linda often have date mornings instead of nights, and have found a cinema that offers screenings in the morning. While Shay doesn't go to bed too early -- he can't with a house full of children, he says -- he has a nap during the day when he can. Linda works two afternoons a week, teaching singing at the Encore School of Performing Arts at two of its five locations at Taney Centre and the Mill Theatre in Dundrum, which she loves.
She grew up in Milltown as the middle child of George and Jean Nolan's three children, and also went into the world of showbiz relatively late in life.
Having studied to be an accounting technician, she spent 16 years working in the IT department of Ulster Bank. Then, when her IT function was being relocated to the UK, she took the proffered redundancy and stayed home with the children.
She had always loved being immersed in the singing and acting worlds through amateur dramatics, and also sang with gospel choirs.
Shay loves music too, and will present A Night At The Oscars in February performed by the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, featuring all-time iconic movie score favourites from the 1930s through to recent times. It will include old and new, funny and sad, animated classics, movie musicals, romantic comedies, dramas and Disney hits.
"It's going to be such a joy for me to hear songs from the likes of Chariots of Fire and Cabaret to Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins played by the orchestra, who are amazing," he says.
"It's kind of unbelievable to me that a painter and decorator from Artane will be walking out on the stage to welcome people to the National Concert Hall."
Shay Byrne presents 'A Night At The Oscars' with the RTE National Symphony Orchestra on Friday, February 1, 2013 at the NCH at 8pm. Tickets from €10. Booking and full details on www.rte.ie/nso. Shay Byrne's 'Risin' Time' airs on RTE Radio 1, Monday-Friday, 5.30-7am. Linda teaches at Encore School of Performing Arts, www.encorekids.ie
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