Friday, May 08, 2015

Gay Byrne

Gay Byrne, also known as “Uncle Gay” or “Gaybo”, is an Irish presenter of radio and television. He was born on 5 August 1935. He is the last of six children. His father fought in World War I with the Irish volunteers and later fought in the Irish War of Independence. Byrne grew up in Dublin and attended Rialto National School as well as some others for short periods of time. He was then educated by the Irish Christian Brothers at Synge Street CBS. He began his career working at the North Strand cinema, and subsequently became a clerk in an insurance company. He also worked as a sales representative.

Byrne has always been inspired by Eamonn Andrews, a famous broadcaster. In 1958 he started his career as a broadcaster by presenting jazz music every Monday evening on the RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann), the Irish public television and Radio Company.  From 1972 he presented The Gay Byrne Hour which was later renamed The Gay Byrne Show. It was a morning show presented everyday of the week. This show was well-known as being famous among the Irish Housewives. Though he retired in 1999 he still presents the Sunday Serenade on the RTÉ. Every Sunday he presents a music show during the afternoon and so playing jazz music again as he used to when he started his broadcaster career.

Byrne also presented TV shows. He started on the 5 July 1962 on Irish television with The Late Late Show. The programme became a forum in which controversial and interesting taboo topics were openly discussed such as contraception, abortion, homosexuality, AIDS, divorce or unemployment. A great number of celebrities were invited to take part in the debates such as The Boomtown Rats, U2, Sinéad O'Connor, Noel Gallagher. He also hosted famous politicians including the president of Ireland and minor members of the Royal Family. At the begin of the broadcast, in the 60's, The Late Late Show had a lot of influence on people, however his point was not to be a social reformer. On 21 May 1999, it was the last broadcasting of the show with Byrne as presenter. In September 1999, Byrne was succeeded by Pat Kenny to present the show. It is the world's longest running chat show because it has been broadcasted from 1962 until today.

Even if it was a turning point in his life, it did not mean that his career was over yet.  Gay Byrne has continued to appear on screen regularly.

In 1966 and 67 he compered the finals of the Castlebar Song Contest. He then presented The Rose of Tralee festival from 1967 until 1994. During several years, between 1988 and 2001, he has been the presenter of the Telethon. He presented a show called 'Lets Dance' for Granada Television which enabled him to become the first person presenting The Beatles on screen. In 2009 he began to present another show called The meaning of life in which he interviews some famous people, such as Stephen Fry, about issues related to the meaning of life. Byrne has always aimed to stay neutral and he never pretended to have the truth about the topic under discussion which created a good sphere to debate. After his retirement, Byrne has continued to feature occasionally on television presenting Who wants to be a millionaire? and For One Night Only in 2011, which was his last show.

Byrne has now been married to Kathleen Watkins for more than fifty years. They have two adopted daughters, Suzy and Crone. Today Gay Byrne is still very busy and in very good shape. He said: “For the month of October I have had to put walking into my diary to ensure I actually make time to go for one”.

Estelle Crusnaire, Antoine Pauwels, Caroline Laurent


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