seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


Leave a comment

Death of Musician William (Billy) Brown

william-billy-brownWilliam (Billy) Brown, a musician and artist from Northern Ireland, dies on June 6, 1999 of a heart attack at his home in Johnstown, County Kildare. He is best remembered as a singer, saxophonist, and pianist with The Freshmen, one of Ireland’s most popular showbands of the 1960s and 1970s.

Brown is born in Larne, County Antrim in Northern Ireland. While studying at the Belfast College of Art he joins Billy McFarland’s Showband. Later he forms The Freshmen with some friends. Through Brown’s skillful arrangements, the band is able to reproduce sophisticated vocal harmonies in their covers of songs such as “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and “Carpet Man.”

Brown leaves The Freshmen in the mid-1970s to pursue other musical challenges, albeit with limited success. He later rejoins the band and, in 1977, they have one of their biggest hits with his composition, “Cinderella.” Following the breakup of The Freshmen, he has a minor solo hit in 1980 with his own song, “Look What Jerry Lee Did To Me.”

In his latter years, Brown develops his interest in wildlife, becoming a successful painter of nature scenes, as well as contributing his insights into the natural world on RTÉ 2fm‘s children’s show, Poporama.

Billy Brown dies of a heart attack on June 6, 1999, at his home in Johnstown, County Kildare. In its obituary, the Irish Independent refers to him as “one of the most gifted musicians of his generation.”

In a tribute to Brown following his death, Freshmen founder-member, Maurice Henry, describes his late friend’s pivotal role in the band:

“You could say Billy was The Freshmen and without his talent and innovative musical skills we would certainly not have achieved as much, either as a showband or in our recordings.”

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Death of RTÉ Presenter Gerard “Gerry” Ryan

Gerard “Gerry” Ryan, presenter of radio and television employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is found dead in the bedroom of his home on Leeson Street, Dublin on April 30, 2010. He presents The Gerry Ryan Show on radio station RTÉ 2fm each weekday morning from 1988 until hours before his sudden death. He is presented with a Jacob’s Award for the show in 1990.

Ryan is born in Clontarf, County Dublin on June 4, 1956. He describes his father, Vinnie, as a “slightly eccentric” dentist from a Presbyterian background and his mother, Maureen, as “a flamboyant woman” who comes from a theatrical background and works in the theatre. His godfather is broadcaster Eamonn Andrews. He is educated at St. Paul’s College, Raheny.

Ryan hosts several series of television shows, including Secrets, Gerry Ryan Tonight, Ryantown, Gerry Ryan’s Hitlist, Ryan Confidential and the first three series of Operation Transformation. In 1987, he earns notoriety and the moniker “Lambo” after an unpleasant incident in Connemara. He is also noted for co-presenting, with Cynthia Ní Mhurchú, Eurovision Song Contest 1994 and, in 2008, presenting an edition of The Late Late Show, television’s longest-running chat show, in place of the then regular host Pat Kenny.

Ryan marries Morah Brennan in 1988 and they have five children: Lottie, Rex, Bonnie, Elliott and Babette. In 1997, Morah famously telephones her husband’s show and, under the name Norah, tells half a million listeners intimate details concerning his personal household habits. Gerry and Morah announce their separation in March 2008, which Ryan calls “a very painful experience.” He soon begins a relationship with the former South African Ambassador to Ireland and the then UNICEF Ireland executive director, Melanie Verwoerd.

Ryan is noted for his love of fine food and wine. He battles a weight problem for several years and takes Reductil (Sibutramine), a “slimming pill,” which he says is effective and safe. Ryan concedes in his autobiography Would the Real Gerry Ryan Please Stand Up, released in October 2008, that he drinks too much for his own good.

Among the dignitaries to send tributes following Ryan’s death are Bono, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, and President Mary McAleese. His funeral takes place on May 6, 2010, and is broadcast on 2fm, the home of Ryan’s radio show and a first for the predominantly youthpop-oriented station. His death also comes sixteen years to the day after he hosted Eurovision 1994.

An inquest shows that the cause of Ryan’s death is cardiac arrhythmia and that traces of cocaine found in Ryan’s system are the “likely trigger” of Ryan’s death. A considerable public controversy erupts when Ryan’s long-term use of cocaine comes to light. RTÉ eventually admits to having given insufficient coverage of Ryan’s cocaine habit in the aftermath of the inquest.


Leave a comment

Birth of Broadcaster Pat Kenny

pat-kennyPatrick “Pat” Kenny, veteran Irish broadcaster, is born in Dublin on January 29, 1948. Kenny currently hosts the daily radio show The Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk and the current affairs show Pat Kenny Tonight on TV3.

Kenny is educated at the O’Connell School and obtains a chemical engineering degree from University College Dublin (UCD) in 1969. Subsequently, he is a postgraduate student at Georgia Institute of Technology and then a lecturer at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Dublin. He begins his broadcasting career in parallel to his academic “day-job” by working as a continuity announcer on RTÉ radio in the mid-1970s. He subsequently becomes a radio disc jockey.

Kenny has a 41 year high-profile career at RTÉ, in which he is their highest paid presenter for several years. He presents the radio show Today with Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio 1 each weekday morning between 10:00 and midday until 2013. He hosts The Late Late Show from September 1999 until May 2009, however returns as a stand-in host in January 2013. He presents the current affairs programme, The Frontline, each Monday night from 2009 until its cancellation in 2013.

Kenny is the co-host of Eurovision Song Contest 1988, as well as numerous other television shows, including Today Tonight, Saturday Live, and Kenny Live, and works for both RTÉ Radio 1 and RTÉ 2fm, sometimes simultaneously, in a career that has spanned five decades. He is the holder of a Jacob’s Award and is perennially cited as the highest paid employee in RTÉ’s possession. He is named 23rd most influential person of 2009 by the magazine Village.


Leave a comment

Birth of Radio & Television Presenter Gerard “Gerry” Ryan

Gerard “Gerry” Ryangerard-gerry-ryan, Irish presenter of radio and television employed by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ), is born in Clontarf, County Dublin, on June 4, 1956. He presents The Gerry Ryan Show on radio station RTÉ 2fm each weekday morning from 1988 until his sudden death.

Early in his career, Ryan is involved part-time in pirate radio, presenting a selection of programmes firstly for Alternative Radio Dublin (ARD) and then for Big D. When RTÉ Radio 2, now RTÉ 2fm, is launched in 1979, Ryan joins RTÉ as a DJ where he presents a selection of speech and music based programmes.

In 1987, Ryan and a group of volunteers spend time in the countryside of Connemara as part of The Gay Byrne Show. Ryan claims to have killed and eaten a lamb to survive, earning him the nickname “Lambo,” though the story turns out to be a hoax.

The Gerry Ryan Show begins in March 1988 when he is offered a three-hour morning radio slot. Ryan’s style is considered by some to be that of a motor-mouth shock jock. The Gerry Ryan Show is subject to several upheld complaints to the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI). The Gerry Ryan Show becomes something of a national institution as the oldest show still running on 2fm. Despite repeated reshuffles which see all other presenters shifted around, RTÉ never moves The Gerry Ryan Show from its traditional slot.

In October 1990, Ryan receives a Jacob’s Award for The Gerry Ryan Show, described at the award ceremony as “unbelievably bizarre and unprecedented – and at the same time being serious, hilarious, and unpredictable.”

Ryan hosts several series of television shows during his career including Secrets, Ryantown, Gerry Ryan Tonight, Let Me Entertain You, Gerry Ryan’s Hitlist, Ryan Confidential, and Operation Transformation.

Ryan is noted for his love of fine food and wine. He battles a weight problem for several years. Ryan concedes in his autobiography, Would the Real Gerry Ryan Please Stand Up published in 2008, that he drinks too much for his own good.

Shortly after midday on April 30, 2010, Ryan is found dead in the bedroom of his home on Leeson Street, Dublin. His funeral takes place on May 6, and is broadcast on 2fm, the home of Ryan’s radio show and a first for the predominantly youthpop-oriented station.