Gerry Ryan was the voice of a generation – my generation. Just a few years older than me, be began broadcasting his hugely successful morning programme in 1988, the year after my eldest daughter was born.
His often irreverent view of life in Ireland was witty and very much in line with what many of us, his generation, were feeling. But he also had great empathy with his listeners, particularly when it came to everyday stuff of family life – from crying babies to sulking teenagers. Gerry had been there and could articulate so what the rest of us were often feeling.
It was a huge shock when his split from ‘Mrs Ryan’ (as he always referred to his wife Morah) was announced because, to those of us who tuned in regularly, he was clearly deeply in love with his wife. But he never let us, his listeners, know anything about what must have been a very painful episode for him and his family. He was on air next day, referring to the fact that he himself was in all the papers but commenting no further. This gave a hint at his ability to compartmentalise his emotions. He only shared with us, what he wanted to; a trait often found in larger than life, witty, extrovert personalities. This leaves me to think that there was much more to G Ryan than the man who we listened to on radio every morning. And of his legion of ‘friends’ I wonder how many really knew him?
I was interviewed by Gerry on air, three times; twice in my role as Public Relations Officer for the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and once as ‘stay at home mom’, recently retired from the workforce. That last time, I was phoned and asked would I be OK to go on air in ten minutes time to talk about an email I had sent in to the show on the subject of working moms –v- stay at home moms. I parked the car and said ‘sure’ and waited for the call back. That morning, on a side road in Bray I spoke to Gerry for over twenty minutes (clearly some guest or other had not shown up). He had a great gift for making us ordinary people feel at ease on air and I had to constantly to remind myself I was talking to a large audience, not just G Ryan, although that was how it felt. This special gift is always apparent in his TV series, Ryan Confidential.
I am genuinely sorry that we have lost Gerry, so early. He had clearly lots more to do in his broadcasting career. I will miss his cheery voice going through our national papers in the morning and his weird accents and sometimes warped sense of humour. He was an original and I suppose we were lucky that RTE recognised his gifts and allowed him roam around our lives every morning for so long.
To his family, particularly Morah and his children, his colleagues, friends and partner I extend my deepest sympathy. May he rest in peace.