Monday 27 January 2020

Gaybo's final show - a people's send-off for Ireland's greatest

Coffin passes GPO where Gay began his radio career. Pic by Gerry Mooney
Coffin passes GPO where Gay began his radio career. Pic by Gerry Mooney

Darling dad-of-two, grandfather-of-five, devoted husband and the most legendary broadcaster this country has ever seen.

But to the throngs who patiently lined the streets of Dublin, stretching all the way from his beloved home up the hill in Howth leading right into the city centre, he was simply known as Gaybo.

Thanks to his 37 years helming The Late Late Show and his era-defining RTE Radio One show, the 85-year-old, who died last Monday, had amassed a legion of fans, many of whom lined the seaside route for his final show as he made his last journey into St Mary's Pro-Cathedral on Marlborough Street.

Behind the hearse came a cortege carrying his beloved wife Kathleen, daughters Crona and Suzy and grandchildren Cian, Sadhbh, Kate, Saoirse and Harry.

Dazzling sunshine greeted mourners who had queued up from early just to try and get a place in the sprawling cathedral, which holds 800 people but saw hundreds more lining the barriers to pay their final respects.


Dubliner Angela Fahy met Gay many years ago at the Calor Housewife of the Year competition and he left a lasting impression.

"He was a very pleasant guy, very amenable. You could tell he liked to chat to people," she said.

"I think some of our newer presenters could take lessons from him."

Geraldine Farrelly, from Shankill, said she used to watch him as a child and was "very fond of him", adding: "We used to sit by the fire watching him on telly."

Leading luminaries from the worlds of entertainment, sport and politics turned out in force to pay a final homage.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrived shortly before President Michael D Higgins alongside former presidents Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

RTE director general Dee Forbes arrived with RTE presenters Ray D'Arcy, Miriam O'Callaghan and Dave Fanning alongside Claire Byrne, Nuala Carey, Sean O'Rourke, Ryan Tubridy, singer Andrea Corr and comedian Tommy Tiernan.

Tubridy said that the special Late Late which aired on Tuesday was like a "national wake" as archive footage of ground-breaking interviews helped people relive their favourite memories of Gay.

"It was about bringing Gay back into the room and reminding people of just how extraordinary he was," he told the Herald.

"His family said they wanted a joyful remembrance of their dad, their husband, a grandfather.

"I was talking to them yesterday and they're holding themselves with such dignity. They're very proud of their dad."

Spontaneous applause erupted as the hearse carrying Gay's remains arrived a little after noon, before the coffin was met by Fr Kieran McDermott.

Principal celebrant was Fr Leonard Moloney, while Archbishop Diarmuid Martin led prayers.

As was fitting for a man who eschewed the usual trappings of the showbiz lifestyle, it was a beautifully simple traditional religious ceremony.

His grandchildren read the prayers of the faithful before chair of the RTE board Moya Doherty and senator Marie-Louse O'Donnell read the readings with music from the Palestrina Choir.

Fr Moloney said that those who were close to him knew him as a "kind, generous and simple person".

He spoke about Gay's radio show and how he "devoted large segments of his two-hour show to reading extracts from the moving and often harrowing letters from women from all over Ireland" who had "sufferings and violations visited upon them" in order to let their voices be heard.

Former RTE director general Bob Collins gave the final eulogy before the service ended and the cortege carrying his coffin made its way to St Fintan's Cemetery for burial.

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