Gerry Anderson: From showbands to the airwaves

Gerry Anderson during his showband boys
Gerry Anderson during his showband boys

As a young guitarist in the 1960s Gerry Anderson broke onto the Manchester music scene, where he worked the clubs.

Tours of the UK and abroad followed with the showband, The Chessmen, and later on, while living in Canada, he joined a band called Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.

However he later returned to Londonderry, where he was born in 1944, and studied for a degree in sociology and social anthropology and then a postgraduate diploma in education. Dabbling in community journalism, a teaching career beckoned but it was broadcasting which claimed him.

He presented his first programme on BBC Radio Foyle in 1985 and soon his popular mid-morning programme was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster and Foyle every weekday morning.

He went on to forge a successful career on both radio and television, winning Radio Academy Awards and Royal Television Society Awards. In 2005, he became the first Northern Ireland broadcaster to be inducted into the Radio Academy Hall of Fame.

In 1994 he also presented his own network radio programme on BBC Radio 4. He returned to Northern Ireland soon after but later continued to make documentaries for Radio 4.

As well as presenting his own television chat show in the early 1990s, he headed up other many other memorable television programmes.

In 2006, he became a clay model for the animated television series “On The Air”.

Around this time veteran News Letter journalist Billy Kennedy worked closely with Gerry for a BBC television programme series on the Ulster-Scots diaspora in America, which Gerry presented.

“Gerry was fascinated by the contribution which 18th/19th century Ulster-Scots’ folk made in the making of America, on the frontier lands, and he gleaned quite a bit from my books on the heroism and daring exploits of these daring people,” Billy said.

“He travelled regularly to the American back country and loved the stories of the Ulster emigrants heading down the Great Wagon Road; the tales of the Old West and the cowboy and the native American Indian people.”

In 2012 Gerry was struck down by ill-health.

As he told the Derry Journal in November 2013: “It’s been quite a complicated time. I’ve undergone a number of operations and it’s involved a long recovery process.”