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Larry Gogan (1934-2020): Radio icon who provided the soundtrack to Irish life

The legendary music man died today aged 85 after 58 years in radio.

Larry Gogan died today aged 85.
Larry Gogan died today aged 85.
Image: Fran Veale/RollingNews.ie

“ALL IT WAS about, all the time, for six decades was pop music.”

The words of Dave Fanning, speaking about his friend and colleague Larry Gogan’s role as the nation’s foremost disc jockey.

“He was the daddy of it all, it’s a simple as that,” Fanning said.

RTÉ is undoubtedly experiencing a strange and sad period after losing three of its most iconic broadcasters over the course of a few short weeks.

If Gay Byrne was Ireland’s transformative TV icon and Marian Finucane was the country’s irreplaceable weekend breakfast companion, Larry Gogan, for a span of over half a century, will be remembered as the country’s DJ-in-chief.

Growing up in Dublin where his father owned a shop in Fairview, Gogan began a career in entertainment as a professional actor at the age of 14. 

His first gig as an actor was in the Gaiety Theatre in a play called Life with Father. His uncle Paddy was a manager and producer Queen’s Theatre in Dublin and subsequently at the Theatre Royal.

Throughout this period Gogan’s love of music grew and he became a fan of DJ Alan Freeman of Radio Luxembourg (and later, of the BBC).

Since his death was announced this morning, Gogan’s friends have spoken about how he took that influence and developed it into a style of his own. 

It was a style that kept music at the centre of his programme but that also understood what it meant for people to appear on his show, treating them with the same cheery manner he did with the people he met in his life. 

rte-2fm-school-of-rock-sponsored-by-everest-music-rte-2fm-revealed-everest-music-as-school-of-rock-sponsor-for-2009-pictured-at-the-announcement-are-2fm-dj-larry-gogan-school-of-rock-judge-mark-gre Larry Gogan as judge of 2FM's School of Rock in 2009. Source: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

This attitude was summed up by an emotional Ronan Collins who spoke to Ryan Tubridy on air this morning. 

“He was a man who was so full of joy all the time, who loved his work, his life, his family, he was extraordinary,” Collins said.

You talk about people in life who are happy, and there’s a professional happiness and there’s professional way of doing things. Larry was never professionally happy, he was personally happy and he spread that to people.  

Despite beginning as an actor while still a teenager, Gogan later joined Ráidió Éireann and quickly became a household name.

More importantly, he became a household voice, with a tone that endured across his six decades in radio.

From broadcasting on Raidió Éireann, Gogan was the natural choice to be the weekday flagbearer when 2FM (then known as Radio 2) was launched in 1979, ultimately spending four decades at the station. 

His music shows, including ‘The Golden Hour’ endeared him to the Irish public, and his Just a Minute Quiz became an iconic slot in its own right. 

So iconic that people unfamiliar with Gogan’s show probably know the quiz’s simple format, the hilariously wrong answers and his famous consolatory line: ‘They didn’t suit you’. 

Gogan was asked about this line in an episode of RTÉ’s Nationwide in 2007.

“It’s not nice, I don’t think, to be giving out to people. I think it’s awful the way some people do kind of take the nose off someone because they got an answer wrong.

You have to remember as well that people’s friends and family are listening in, and I wouldn’t like to embarrass people. 
In 2007 Gogan was moved to weekend radio before being moved back to a weekday slot three years later in 2010, this time for the hour-long Golden Hour. 
Gogan also presented a number of television programmes in the 1960s and provided
commentary on the Eurovision Contest 19 times on radio and four times on television.

Gogan was a DJ first and last and preferred that title instead of the lofty-sounding ‘presenter’.

In January of last year he broadcast his last show on 2FM before moving to present on RTÉ’s digital station, RTÉ Gold.

His playlist for his final show on 2FM was chosen as a testament to his taste, showing his preference for pop and Irish music. Seven of the songs were from Irish artists.

He always tried to play Irish music as much as possible. The Boomtown Rats were the first band he played on Radio 2 in 1979 and the last band he played on the rebranded station in 2019. 

Speaking today, Bob Geldof acknowledged his contribution to the championing of Irish music. 

“If it was a good song and particularly if it was Irish, he was behind you,” he said.

Colleagues have also spoken glowingly about dealing with him and insisted claims about him being the “loveliest man in Irish media” were true.   

Writing in the TheJournal.ie last year, Gogan’s former broadcast assistant Helen Cullen described her time working with him as “amongst the happiest of my career”. 

It was easy for Larry to live up to his reputation because there isn’t an insincere bone in his body – what you hear on the radio or see on the television is exactly how he is in real life. Warm, kind and full of fun. 

Larry Gogan was a widower to his wife Florrie who died in 2002. The pair met when they were 15 and married at 21.

They were married for 39 years and are survived by five children.

Announcing Gogan’s passing this morning RTÉ listed his age as 81. It has since been confirmed he was 85. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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