Laid back broadcaster who ‘broke the mould’

Gerry Anderson.
Gerry Anderson.

A master of his art with a fondness for the quirks of life in Northern Ireland, the Londonderry broadcaster famously renamed his birthplace “Stroke City”.

He became a household name during a glittering radio and television career spanning three decades but was best known for his morning show on Radio Ulster – featuring a number of regular callers who regaled listeners with tales of curious happenings, mystery ailments and bizarre self-help tips.

Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson

He died on August 21 after a long illness aged 69.

Mourners at his funeral, which took place at St Eugene’s Cathedral in his native city last week, heard him described as “full of life” and “a man who knew who he was”.

Father Paul Farren said the broadcaster spread the gift of joy.

“We gather to give thanks to God for Gerry’s life and for all the gifts and joy and entertainment that so many people received through Gerry, especially those into whose lives he brought light and joy when light could be dim and joy hard to find,” he said.

Fr Farren said he was a man who was greatly admired for his tongue-in-cheek referals to his home city and was “a man who died too soon”.

The clergyman said the Anderson family had described Gerry as “a simple man who enjoyed simple things” who had a unique talent, boundless energy but always “true to himself”.

Eamonn Holmes described his fellow broadcaster as someone who “broke the mould”.

He said: “We have lost one of the big beasts of Irish broadcasting.

“He was a character. He was mischievous. He was someone who kept listeners and viewers on the edge. You didn’t know what would come next. He was certainly different.”

Up to 1,000 family, friends and former colleagues packed the cathedral for the poignant service.

Among them Londonderry musician and songwriter Phil Coulter, former SDLP leader John Hume, television presenters Colin Murray, Eamonn Holmes and Gerry Kelly, and Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt.

Named Best Regional Presenter at the Royal Television Society journalism awards in 2004 – and inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame the following year – the former showband member would go on to briefly host a UK-wide show on Radio 4.

Earlier awards included a Gold Sony Award 1990 for Best Regional Broadcaster, and Broadcaster of the Year at the Entertainment and Media Awards, 1991, 1992 and 1993.

His television shows included The Show and Anderson on the Box.

In 2011, the BBC broadcast On The Air, a clay animation series which recreated the quirky real-life phone calls Gerry Anderson took from listeners on his radio programme.

With a unique laid back and irreverent style, he remained immensely popular until 2012 when ill health made it impossible for him to continue on Radio Ulster.

Born in 1944, he attended the Christian Brothers school in Londonderry and tried several jobs before embarking on a career in the music industry.

By 1972 he was touring with showband The Chessmen but became disillusioned and returned home to study for a degree in sociology and social anthropology.

His broadcasting career began at BBC Radio Foyle in 1985. He wrote the book Surviving in Stroke City in 1999 and published A Day in the Life in 2008.

A grandfather of two, he is survived by wife Christine, son David and daughter Kirsty.