Remembering Gay – A Personal Reflection
It’s been quite a week since the sad news of Ireland’s favourite broadcaster leaving us.
As a boy broadcaster working in RTÉ for 17 years, I had seen a remarkable insight to one of the most gifted and professional people I had come to know.
Friday afternoons used to be something of an institution: egg and chips in the canteen at a table reserved for Gay, Maura Connolly and his production team. Following lunch, he would have a nap in the afternoon in one of the studios where fellow members of the broadcaster were told to walk gently by Gay’s dressing room as he was having a nap.
After a 90 minute snooze, he would return to Studio 1, where some of the finest floor managers would be put through their paces. Don Irwin, one of the floor managers, was always an impressive moment to see behind the scenes and watch the master at work. Another of the floor managers who Gay enjoyed was Walter, who came from the same school, Synge Street CBS, who used to wear white gloves to add to the excitement of the night.
During the afternoon, Gay would go through a rigorous rehearsal with every gesture and hand movement rehearsed to the enth degree. Everyone on the production team was sworn to secrecy in case news of the broadcast and who the likely guest might be.
Over the years, as I moved out of the newsroom and into dark world of PR, I had a chance to work with and alongside Gay, escorting many clients through the doors, from politicians to businesspeople to leading lights of show business.
During this time, we became immensely busy and employed Gay’s daughter Crona, who became a great support and a good pal.
One great moment was reuniting the past when we were hired by New Ross Urban Council to commemorate the 45th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s visit to the town. Up to one thousand people gathered on the quayside on Sunday afternoon to witness the late President’s sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, unveil a life-sized statue dedicated to the memory and legacy of her brother.
As Master of Ceremonies, Gay, who covered President Kennedy’s New Ross address as a young reporter, welcomed the throngs of people by sharing his fond memories of JFK’s visit to New Ross in 1963. Gay said; ‘’I cannot image how it must feel for Ambassador Kennedy Smith to be standing here today 45 years after she stood on these quays beside her brother, the then President of the United States for what has happened in the life of her family since then it must be quite overwhelming.’’
Another side to Gay was that he was an immensely private man. When he heard I bought a motorbike, he was determined to ensure I had lessons and was very safety first. Many a time he said to me ‘’do you want to go for a spin?’’. I would say sure no problem, thinking Skerries, but he wanted to go to Donegal.
Later when he moved from Howth to Dublin 4 he could take a good slagging. He thought he lived in Sandymount but I told him he loved in Ballsbridge.
Reflecting on times past, while he was out of the spotlight he remained a good friend, sounding board as he was still very much in touch with a changing Ireland. Some might even say that a lot of the programmes he did in the past have yet to become a realty in Ireland.