Tuesday 24 April 2018

Gerry Ryan's family gather to remember him on third anniversary

Morah Ryan with John Mc Colgan.
Morah Ryan with John Mc Colgan.
Elliot Ryan arriving with his mother Morah.
Moya Doherty

THE late broadcaster Gerry Ryan was remembered by family and friends today at a Mass at a church in Clontarf.

The third anniversary of the 2fm star’s death was marked by a visit by his loved ones to St John the Baptist Church on Clontarf Road at 10am.

His widow Morah, accompanied by his children and their friends, arrived together for the Mass.

They were embraced at the door by friends and Riverdance co-founders Moya Doherty and partner John McColgan.

Gerry’s close friend, actor Joe Taylor embraced Morah as they prepared for his anniversary Mass.

Miriam O’Callaghan has also opened up on Gerry's death.

“I just feel so sad that Gerry’s gone. I bump into Morah and the kids at different events and it’s just so sad, life can be cruel sometimes.

"Gerry should be here cracking jokes with us and he’s not, so I think of his family at this time.”

Meanwhile one of Gerry's closest friends, David Blake Knox, has broken his silence on the broadcaster's passing.

The producer of Ryan Confidential rarely talks about his pal's death – but he wants to challenge some of the 'bogus myths' that now tarnish Gerry's legacy.

And TV producer David (59) has spoken of how he feels the contribution made by Gerry to Irish broadcasting and Irish life is finally being recognised.


The former RTE head of entertainment praised his friend of 25 years for his devotion to his family, revealing how after his very last broadcast on 2fm, Gerry rushed from RTE studios to bring a set of dividers to his son Elliott (14), who had forgotten it for a school exam.


Working alongside the Clontarf man for three decades in RTE, David devised the Ryan Confidential series and the Gerry tribute programme, and still gets calls and letters about the him. "Everyone I meet who worked with or came into contact with Gerry has incredibly positive memories of him. In fact, after a minute of talking they usually burst into laughter about something he said or did. At the same time, Gerry profoundly affected radio broadcasting in Ireland, at one stage he had over a million listeners to his radio show. His influence is everywhere.


"But while Gerry has been imitated, he could never be replaced," David told the Herald.



However much of Gerry Ryan's legacy was overshadowed at the time of his death in April 2010 by the results of an inquest which ruled that traces of cocaine found in his system were the likely trigger for cardiac arrhythmia that resulted in his death.


The broadcaster's use of cocaine became a jarring addition to the Gerry tribute documentary that David made for RTE following his death.


He had never seen Gerry taking cocaine, and, after talking to medical experts in the course of making the documentary, became further convinced that Gerry was not, as suggested, a "habitual drug user".


"Gerry did not have the characteristics of a habitual drug user – first of all he had a weight problem, and, secondly, he maintained a job for 22 years which involved him getting up early in the morning," said David, who published a book, Suddenly, While Abroad: Hitler's Irish Slaves, in 2012 and is currently penning a new book about RTE.


He also denied that Gerry had been under the influence of any substance while filming Ryan Confidential.


"You can't disguise something like that when, even on the simplest of TV shows, you have half a dozen people working on set. It would have been immediately noticeable. It never arose, nor even the suggestion," he said.




He adds that Gerry's widely reported financial problems at the time of his death were not down to drugs.


"Given his RTE salary, if Gerry had spent that or even a significant portion of that, he would have had to consume an enormous amount of drugs. On his general finances, I'd say there are people who earn €50K a year, but spend €55K. Gerry didn't itemise. He wasn't the only one who was encouraged to spend and forget about it. He was offered overdrafts and it didn't become a problem until the crash, his domestic situation changed, and RTE started cutting salaries – but in Gerry's case he had high market value for RTE and brought them in huge money."


It was in 1988 that David first worked with Ryan, when coming up with the format for a new late night talk show Nighthawks and booking Ryan as the first guest.


Later, as RTE's head of entertainment, he called on Gerry's talents again to co-host Eurovision from Dublin in 1994.


But it was in 2004 that they cemented their working relationship with show Ryan Confidential.


"Gerry's TV work until then had been popular but mauled by the critics. I felt his great interviewing skills hadn't been properly translated to TV, so we set out to make a show which would play to his strengths," he said. It ran for six series on RTE and guests included Terry Wogan, Conan O'Brien and Playboy boss Hugh Hefner. And despite the big names involved, no money ever changed hands.


"No one got paid. The way we pitched it to subjects was that while the public had an image, we could show a more complex human being. It was called 'confidential' and people often confided to us – Terry Wogan spoke about the death of a child, or Bob Geldof opened up about Paula Yates."


One of the most interesting Ryan Confidential interviews came in 2008 when Gerry Ryan was the subject, interviewed by his friend Ryan Tubridy.


The producer had been due to attend the theatre with Ryan, on April 29 2010, the night before he died but received a call from his friend en route saying he was unwell and would not be attending.


He was shocked then the following day, when after leaving Gerry a message, he received a text from a journalist which read 'Is Gerry dead?"


"That was fairly brutal. That Gerry could be dead seemed like a crazy notion. He was always so ebullient, but I wondered if it could be a stunt. Then someone from RTE rang me and said it was true."


Later that night David was part of a TV panel on The Late Late Show paying tribute to Ryan but later found himself at the centre of controversy when Gerry's girlfriend, Melanie Verwoerd, did not feature in his TV documentary Gerry.


"Certainly no decision was made by me or RTE to exclude Melanie. I started the documentary interviewing people from the outside in, and by the time I got around to interviewing Melanie, it was at the time of inquest and she was understandably upset," said David.


A visit by Verwoerd to South Africa shortly after the inquest meant that the filming schedule prevented an interview taking place – and Gerry's widow Morah had made no objection to Verwoerd's participation.


"Morah was still Gerry's wife at the time of his death. They hadn't divorced, so our documentary would have lacked credibility if she hadn't been involved. It was hard for Morah because she's a private person but she felt that she needed to do it, and came on board." Three of Gerry Ryan's children also featured in the tribute, Rex (24), Lottie (26) and Bonnie (19).


"Gerry was a very involved father who offered his kids only pure love, so there was no unresolved conflicts at the time of his death.


"Nothing was more important to Gerry than his kids."

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