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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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A final round of applause for Gaybo as pioneering broadcaster's funeral takes place

Family, friends and fans of the broadcasting giant gathered to pay their final respects.

Updated Nov 8th 2019, 2:40 PM

013 Gay Byrne funeral_90584518 (1) Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

FAMILY, FRIENDS AND fans gathered in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral today to pay their final respects to legendary broadcaster Gay Byrne. 

Before arriving at the church before noon, Gay’s funeral cortege passed through Howth Village en route to the city, allowing locals to pay their respects to the presenter who lived near the north Dublin town for many years.

The funeral mass was led by Fr Leonard Maloney SJ who first paid his respects to Gay’s wife Kathleen, his children Crona and Suzy, his sons-in-law Philip and Ronan, his beloved grandchildren Cian, Sadhbh, Kate, Saoirse and Harry, and his sister Mary.

During his homily, Fr Maloney described Gay as “a consummate broadcaster and a veritable choirmaster of the national conversation” but said his greatness lay in the intimacy of his family life. 

Those who were closest to Gay knew him as a kind, generous and simple man who would counsel them always to give people the benefit of the doubt because, as he used to say, ‘You never know what they are going through’. He showed this same good grace and warmth wherever he went.

“The nurses and the cleaners in the hospital when he went in for treatment saw it. They felt befriended. And his grandchildren saw it too,” Fr Maloney said. 

Gay passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer, something Maloney said took a huge toll on him. 

“As he told Ray D’Arcy in one of his last interviews, his regimen of eighteen tablets a day caused him great agitation and anxiety. But, typically, he only said this in order to express how grateful he was to Kathleen and the family for looking after him and for being so understanding of his suffering. And as Kathleen told me, even if he did get upset and resistant around his treatment, he was always quick to say ‘Sorry’.”

005 Gay Byrne funeral_90584508 (1) Well-wishers and members of the public in Howth Village today, as Gardai escort Gay Byrne's funeral cortège to St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin. Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

funeral 933_90584613 Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

gay-byrne-funeral President Michael D Higgins arrives for the funeral mass. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Remembering Gay’s broadcasting career, including his time as presenter of The Late Late Show for almost four decades, Maloney said his programmes could “engender controversy, if not downright fury, at times”. 

“But his sense of humour and witty ripostes could help diffuse potential timebombs. A bit of a comedian himself, he enjoyed and nurtured the irreverent or satirical humour of others. We laughed with him down the years. And laughter, as Pope Francis remarks in his letter Rejoice and Be Glad, is one of the ways of finding God’s joy.

Gay often devoted large segments of his two-hour radio programme to reading extracts from the moving and often harrowing letters sent in by women from all over Ireland telling, perhaps for the first time ever, of sufferings and violations visited on them.

“He did this at a time when there was little space in the public realm for stories like these to be told. He let their voices be heard. He recognized their dignity and he validated their experience. They were precisely the ‘poor’ to whom Jesus refers in today’s gospel,” Maloney said. 

Bob Collins, former Director-General of RTÉ, said to present a popular programme like the Late Late is “to inhabit a number of worlds and personalities simultaneously, all the while being true to oneself”.

“Gay was all these things; reflective, deep, serious, thoughtful, a person of values. For that we are grateful.” 

gay-byrne-funeral Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and RTE's Ryan Tubridy pictured before heading into the cathedral. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

gay-byrne-funeral Marty Whelan and Ray D'Arcy were also in attendance. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

014 Gay Byrne funeral_90584521 Gay's wife Kathleen waving to well wishers as she is driven from St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral after the funeral mass. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

During the eulogy, Collins said Gay would be the last person to suggest that he was “the initiator of Ireland’s process of change or that he single handily brought it about” during his run as Late Late host. 

“Change was already beginning to happen. People were beginning to have a new sense of themselves. Women were finding their voices and raising them. But Gay recognised that. He discerned what was coming in terms of social development and social change, he understood the democratising power of television.

He was an important guide on the journey into the modern era. The people appreciated that, and they loved him for it.

“We knew he would bring the sunshine, “ Muriel Keohan Coleman and Angela Keohan, both from Waterford, said as they waited outside the cathedral to pay their final respects. 

They were among the many fans who turned out to pay tribute to ‘Gaybo’, noting that the sun had appeared as Byrne made his final journey through the capital.

There was once last round of applause from mourners outside the church as the cortège left the city for St Fintan’s cemetery in Sutton. 

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Adam Daly

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