Sad news yesterday about the sudden death of RTÉ broadcaster Gerry Ryan at the young age of 53 (Jeez - that's close to my own age!). I heard the news at work, and then noticed that Twitter was alive with comment and shock. The death was the main item on RTÉ news and there was genuine shock and love for Gerry from everyone who spoke about and paid tribute to him. I even watched part of the Late Late Show which was about him. There's no doubt that he would be loving all the attention.
I sometimes tuned into to his radio show. As I don't listen to the radio at work, I rarely heard his morning programme. On a day off, or if cycling to work I would quite often switch from RTÉ Radio 1 to 2FM - he did a better review of the papers. While I sometimes found the items on his show trivial and boring, more often than not I kept listening as he could make a story out of almost anything. He was funny, loud, rude, kind, and intelligent - I wish I could have had more time to hear him on the radio. For a lot of people he was part of their everyday lives, and he will be sadly missed.
I never met Gerry Ryan, but our paths did cross back in August 1984 when he was a late show DJ on 2FM, and I was a postgraduate student in Trinity. I lived in a house on Sherrard Street Upper where we only had a radio for entertainment - I listened to his show all the time. One evening he had a competition in association with USIT. He described a fictitious fantastic car, and he wanted the listeners to figure out the registration number of the car from the title or artist of 6 songs he was about to play. The six songs:
- Chuck E's in Love - Ricky Lee Jones
- Oh Yeah! - Roxy Music
- Pop Muzik - M
- 50 Ways to Leave your Lover - Paul Simon
- Eight Days a Week - The Beatles
- Knock Three Times on the Ceiling - Tony Orlando
I figured out the answer as EOM 5083. I wasn't sure how to handle the "Oh" in the Roxy Music song, so went with just "O". I also wasn't sure whether it was 50 or 60 ways to leave your lover, so I checked this out in a record shop in the City Centre the next day. No text or email in those days, so I sent my entry on a post card to his show. A few days later I got a telegram - the only time I ever got one. It was a message to call Willie O'Reilly - at the time I did not know who he was, but I soon figured out that he was the producer of Gerry Ryan's evening show. I resolve to call him the next day, as it was evening when I picked up the telegram. That evening I listened to the Show and Gerry announced the result of the competition - "EOM 5083". I was correct! He then said he had a hat and he went through the charade of rattling paper and drawing an answer from the hat. The first one out was not me - why had I got the telegram? However, the answer called out had one letter wrong, so Gerry "reached " into the hat an "drew" out another entry. This time it was me - I had won the competition! The prize was flights for two to Paris courtesy of USIT. I remember letting out a mighty "Yippee!".
The next day I called the number for Willie O'Reilly (from a telephone box in Phibsborough) and I got to speak to Gerry (not on air). He asked how I heard that I had won and I simply said that "I heard it on the Gerry Ryan Show". He liked that and asked if I would do an ad. He told me that the competition was to run for four weeks with four winners (I was the first), but that the response to the first one was poor. So I was recorded saying "I heard it on the Gerry Ryan Show" on an ad which ran for a week, but I never heard it (others who knew me did).
Roma and I went on our first trip abroad in September 1984 to Paris as a result. We had a great time (though we had very little money to spend). This was before we got engaged (a year later), and our week together was the first time we spent a holiday with each other - I knew she was the girl for me. The third picture to the left on my blog topstrip above was taken just a few months beforehand. For your role in helping me fall in love, I thank you Gerry. I did send you a postcard from Paris - I still like to think that you read it out on your show while we were away. I remember writing on the card that I was having a great time in Paris, but that I missed the Gerry Ryan Show!
Ar dheis Dé a raibh a anam.