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Joe Duffy could hear Gay Byrne's own advice as he broke the news of his death on Liveline

The host received widespread praise for the manner in which he kept his calm to deliver the sad news live to listeners.

Joe Duffy and Gay Byrne worked together for many years.
Joe Duffy and Gay Byrne worked together for many years.
Image: RollingNews.ie

JOE DUFFY HAS said he kept thinking of the advice of his friend and colleague Gay Byrne as he announced the death of the legendary broadcaster on the Liveline programme.

The host received widespread praise for the manner in which he kept his calm to deliver the sad news live to listeners across the country on Monday.

Duffy was approaching the end his Liveline programme when the show returned from a commercial break for the presenter to inform listeners that his mentor had passed away.  

“It is just coming up to a quarter to three on November 4th 2019 and it is with great sadness for this station, for this organisation for this nation but above all for his loving family Kathleen, Crona, Suzy and their families that I have to announce the passing of Gay Byrne,” Duffy said.

A broadcasting colossus, he died at the family home surrounded by his family, his loving family. Tranquil and peaceful earlier today.

An emotional Duffy went on to say that he visited Byrne over the weekend and has struggled to put his legacy into words. 

He described how the “dulcet, challenging and bemused” voice of Gay Byrne was the facilitator of a changing Ireland through his stewardship of The Late Late Show.

Duffy also spoke about Gay’s hobbies, his “incredible circle of friends” and his love of family.

“He loved a tidy desk, tidy cars, tidy people who are also punctual and he didn’t have a big interest in sport until his beloved grandchildren, you have no idea how he loved his five grandchildren,” Duffy said as he spoke uninterrupted past Liveline’s allotted timeslot.  

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Duffy said he was only told during the break about the death of his friend and that the family wished it be announced on his show.

“I was given a five-minute warning so I just had to call an ad break, the family wanted it announced at 2.45 on Liveline. I didn’t know he had died obviously because I was doing the programme until I was told by my boss during the ad break and I just, I tried to compose what to say, that was it.”

He also says he heard Gay’s voice in his head as he was speaking:

Luckily in the weekend just passed I’d been asked by a newspaper to write a piece and I’d written a piece. So we just basically I chopped and edited that for broadcast and I’m glad I didn’t make any mistakes. And Gay would have been annoyed anyway, I just could hear his voice in my head as I was speaking:’Make sure your pronunciations are right, slow down, slow down, slow down and no blubbering, no blubbering, it doesn’t do the listener any good’.

“I didn’t want it to be too over the top, he had a good life, but it’s been hard. It’s been awful watching him over the last three years with the pain and the treatment,” Duffy says, adding that Gay himself did not feel unlucky.

“He’d keep saying ‘there are so many people worse off to me and so many people going through this’. And he’d say, ‘I had great health’, which he did, for 82 years. He never took a Panadol, he took a Rubex every day,. He thought Solpadeine was a Spanish football player, I don’t think he ever heard of it.”

Duffy says he’s been struck by the warmth towards Gay since his death but is not altogether surprised, not just because of his talent but because he became friendly with so many.

“People are offering condolences to each other because so many people know him. He’s got such an enormous breadth of friends all the way from Donegal to Dublin.”

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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