Gerry Anderson (1944 - 2014)

Veteran broadcaster and musician from Derry~Londonderry passes away aged 69

Award-winning broadcaster Gerry Anderson has passed away aged 69 after a long illness, which initially forced him off the air in December 2012.

Anderson was born in Derry~Londonderry in 1944, and during the 1960s and 70s worked as a session guitar player with various showbands, including the Chessmen, touring the UK and Canada.

A career in broadcasting followed, with Anderson joining BBC Radio Foyle in 1985. His natural charisma and wit endeared him to audiences across Northern Ireland, though a stint presenting for Radio 4 in England was infamously cut short after listeners failed to connect with his informal style.

In 1989, Anderson published the memoir Surviving Stroke City, the title of which alluded to the humorous moniker he created for his home city, Derry~Londonderry.

In 1990, Anderson scooped a coveted Sony Award for Best Regional Broadcaster, and in 2005 was inducted into the UK Radio Hall of Fame. Yet Anderson never forgot his musical roots, and used his privileged position to help promote emerging Northern Irish artists with regular live sessions on his show.

His much-loved Radio Foyle show, which he presented with his laconic sidekick Sean Coyle, was adapted for television by Holywood-based animation studio, Flickerpix, and broadcast as On The Air on BBC Northern Ireland.

In 2012, Anderson announced that he would step back from his radio committments due to illness. Despite attending the premiere of the film A City Dreaming, which he wrote, at St Columb's Hall in Derry in December 2013, Anderson did not fulfil his wish to return to the airwaves. He passed away on August 21, 2014.

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has spoken of her sadness at the news of Anderson's death:

'Gerry Anderson was a broadcasting pioneer who enriched our cultural landscape. He had an inordinate wit which brought joy to so many. He could be scathing and endearing, and was often both at the same time. But his humour was based in a real affection for his home town of Derry and the north, and listeners loved him for it.

'We are poorer for his passing, but he leaves a legacy which touched people across Ireland and further afield. My thoughts are with his wife Christine, his family, friends and colleagues at both Radio Foyle and across the wider BBC.'

Fellow BBC Radio Ulster presenter and shock jock Stephen Nolan this morning labelled Anderson 'a radio genius', while veteran presenter Gloria Hunniford said: 'Gerry was unique. We loved him dearly.'

'This is a sad day,' said musician, Ria Maguire. 'This lovely man was the first person to invite me onto the radio at the tender age of 15. Thank you for the memories, Gerry.'

'Anybody who remembers when he first came on Radio Ulster will remember how different he was,' said playwright, Martin Lynch. 'Up until Gerry came along, presenters were always polite, politically correct, way too stiff and very respectful of their guests or those who phoned in. Gerry changed all that.

'He often told phonecallers they were talking rubbish – all in good humour – but he might cut them off or just quickly pass on to the next item. It was so refreshing. But all done with a very light touch and great humour.'

Director of BBC Northern Ireland Peter Johnston said: 'This is a day of great sadness for everyone at Radio Foyle, Radio Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland, and of course our thoughts are with Gerry's wife and family.

'Gerry was a man of great wit and mischief, but he also brought great wisdom and insight to what he did. Of course, he'll be sadly missed by all of us, but also by all his loyal listeners, for whom he often brought light on dark days over the decades.'