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Death of popular broadcaster Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson compares biceps with body builder Packie Sweeney

Gerry Anderson compares biceps with body builder Packie Sweeney

Popular BBC Radio Ulster presenter Gerry Anderson has died after a long illness.

Anderson, 69, had been off-air for almost two years due to ill-health.

The former show band guitarist had a 30-year career in broadcasting, including an ill-fated spell on Radio 4.

Friends and colleagues spoke affectionately of him today after it was announced that the popular BBC personality had died.

Anderson, 69, had been off-air for almost two years due to ill-health.

The former show band guitarist had a 30-year career in broadcasting, including an ill-fated spell on Radio 4.

He also hosted a number of TV programmes on BBC Northern Ireland but it was his contribution to Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle for which he will be most remembered.

His irreverent morning phone-in show won a legion of loyal fans.

Almost 10 years ago he was inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame.

Born in Londonderry/Derry, Anderson coined the alternative name “Stroke City” in a nod to the endless contention over what his home town should be called.

Director of BBC Northern Ireland Peter Johnston paid tribute to the veteran broadcaster.

“This is a day of great sadness for everyone at Radio Foyle, Radio Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland, and of course our thoughts are with Gerry’s wife and family,” he said.

“Gerry was a man of great wit and mischief, but he also brought great wisdom and insight to what he did.

“Of course, he’ll be sadly missed by all of us, but also by all his loyal listeners, for whom he often brought light on dark days over the decades.

“I had the great pleasure of being in London on the occasion when Gerry was awarded the Hall of Fame for the UK Radio Academy, which just demonstrated what a true legend of the industry he was, a really significant figure.

“I think in Gerry’s case - it’s often said lightly but in his case truly - I don’t think we’ll ever see his like again.”

BBC director general Tony Hall said Anderson was a “distinctive and iconic voice in radio in Northern Ireland and beyond”.

“That he was inducted into the UK Radio Academy Hall of Fame speaks volumes of how special and unique a broadcaster and personality he was,” he said.

“His long-running, mid-morning show on BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle will be missed by his listeners. Gerry will be missed by his friends and colleagues in the BBC.”

Fergus Keeling, head of radio at BBC Northern Ireland, said: “Gerry was possibly the cleverest man I’ve ever known. He was also naturally funny and he had an unmatched style of broadcasting in radio in Northern Ireland.

“We spent an afternoon together just two days before he got the news about his recent illness and he made me laugh so much I didn’t want our conversation to end.

“He was a much-loved member of the BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle family and we shall miss him so, so much. His charm, his wicked wit and his searing insights on life endeared him to us and, of course, his thousands of listeners. I cherish the lovely hug he gave me the last time we met.”

Anderson failed to repeat his regional success in a stint broadcasting nationally on BBC Radio 4.

His afternoon show in the mid-1990s received mixed reviews and he soon returned to Radio Ulster, though continued to make documentaries for Radio 4.

Simon Elmes, creative director of Radio 4’s Documentaries Unit and a producer who worked closely with Anderson, said he was a “broadcaster to the roots of his being”.

“He loved talking to people, preferably live, and did so with style, panache, love... and daring,” he said.

“He had a stunt pilot’s disregard for his own safety and loved to push to the edge of acceptability at times - and his free-running tongue got him into a number of scrapes over the years.

“But he cared about words and the way they could be used to express subtle ideas and shades of opinion. Not for nothing did he coin the now legendary expression to describe the embattled and once brutally divided city of Derry-stroke-Londonderry (Derry/Londonderry) as Stroke City.

“The gallows humour, delivered with the vocal mastery of an Alistair Cooke, was part of the Gerry Anderson persona. And a particularly wicked play on words - usually at some pompous oaf’s expense and spoken deadpan-flat in front of the microphone - was always accompanied, off-air, by a gleeful cackle. Not to say that Gerry was ever unkind; he was the soul of benevolence and generosity.

“Radio 4, which knew the best of Gerry’s wordsmithing, is a quantum poorer by his departure.”

:: You can send your tributes to newsdesk@newsletter.co.uk

 

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