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Dublin: 0 °C Thursday 17 January, 2019
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Opinion: Kind, fun and a music champion - why Larry Gogan is the king of radio

It was announced this week he is leaving his 2fm show to go to RTÉ Gold. His former broadcast assistant Helen Cullen says he was a brilliant boss to her.

Helen Cullen

EVERYTHING YOU’VE HEARD about Larry Gogan is true – he really is the loveliest man in the Irish media, and probably even the world.

I had the great pleasure of working with Larry for a number of years during my time at RTE 2fm and my memories of those days are amongst the happiest of my career.

This week it was announced that he is moving to RTÉ Gold after 40 years with RTÉ 2fm; it truly is the end of an era but wherever Larry goes, his devoted listeners will follow.

‘A master at work’

First things first, Larry is an outstanding broadcaster. Spending time with him in the studio it was a privilege to see and hear the master at work. He once told me that when he is presenting, he imagines he is speaking to just one person in their kitchen or car as they go about their day. Perhaps that is in part why everyone loves Larry: we’ve been having a conversation with him for four decades, and his voice is as familiar to us as some of the people in our own families.

When I first joined the station, I was shy about meeting the living legend who quietly went about his business without any fuss or attention seeking but always had a kind word for everyone.

I suppose when you’ve got it, you can have the confidence to not have to shout about it. And Larry has it in buckets. How could he possibly live up to the reputation he had for being one of Ireland’s national treasures?

I was so young and inexperienced, and concerned he would be disappointed to have a novice such as myself coming to work with him, but I should never have wasted a moment even thinking such a thing. From the very first show Larry made me feel like we were old friends and gently helped me navigate what we needed to do in order to deliver the show every day.

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. We were always chatting while records were playing and often in stitches just before the red light came on as his mic went live, but Larry never missed a beat or lost his cool. A total pro.

So many things Larry did made a profound impression upon me that I’ve never forgotten.

Irish music champion

I fear it sometimes flies a little under the radar how much he supports emerging new Irish artists, but he has always been a great champion for homegrown talent. While I was working with him it didn’t matter whether he received a demo tape recorded in someone’s bedroom, or an exciting new release from a record label, Larry listened to every single one.

And played anything he believed the listeners would be interested in – regardless of whether they were playlisted, had a publicist promoting them, or if a band had sent it to him directly. I bet he still does because above all else Larry loves and appreciates music in all genres and wants to support the industry. It’s in his blood.

The other thing I always speak of when asked about Larry is the tremendous respect he has for his colleagues and listeners. We travelled together up and down the country with the Roadcaster and further afield for broadcasts in Malta and Austria and not once in all my time on the road with him did I ever hear him say a cross word about anyone or shy away from meeting the fans who love him so much.

His one rule was that the Larry Gogan Show was a team and not just him, so whenever he was invited for lunch or dinner or any treat while we were travelling, he would always ensure the invitation was extended to the sound operators and full broadcast team too. While we all looked up to him for the superstar that he is, Larry looked at all of us as his equals and it made everyone feel so valued. Like so often in life, it is the little things that count.

I remember one Christmas someone sent him a huge chocolate hamper and he wanted to divide it between us. For once I managed to put my foot down and told him to bring it home to his grandchildren and give them the pleasure of opening it, and he very reluctantly agreed.

The next day he arrived in the office with two plastic bags full of biscuits and chocolates – he had given it to them to open and then put half aside for me. That small story tells you everything you need to know about Larry Gogan. To this day I receive a Christmas card from him every year and it means the world to me to see his handwriting on the envelope when it lands on the mat. I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it.

A privilege

It was one of the great privileges of my career to work alongside Larry and I think of him often. When I was writing my debut novel, I gave myself the challenge of trying to capture the spirit of Dublin when my character William Woolf visits the city.

As soon as I sat down to write it became clear to me that no one encapsulated that energy more than Larry and so William discovers the Roadcaster on St Stephen’s Green and witnesses the man at work alongside a character fulfilling the role that was once mine – his broadcast assistant keeping track of the scores and reading out the prizes. In my own small way, I wanted to pay tribute to the man who still means so much to me.

Larry Gogan truly is the King of Radio and I will follow his golden voice to any station it leads me to. Long live the King.

Helen Cullen worked at RTE 2fm from 2000- 2010 and is the author of The Lost Letters of William Woolf.

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Helen Cullen

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