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Gay Byrne: Veteran Irish broadcaster dies aged 85

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Gay ByrneImage copyright
RTÉ

Renowned Irish broadcaster Gay Byrne has died at the age of 85.

A broadcasting giant in the Republic of Ireland, he hosted the Late Late Show for more than 30 years on the country’s national broadcaster RTÉ.

Major figures from entertainment and politics paid tribute to him after his death on Monday after a long illness.

Irish President Michael D Higgins said Byrne was a “man of great charisma”, had compassion in abundance and a “sense of what was just”.

  • Late Late Show reels back the years

RTÉ’s director general Dee Forbes described him as an exceptional broadcaster with a “unique and groundbreaking style”.

“He not only defined generations but he deftly arbitrated the growth and development of a nation,” she said.

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Media captionWhen Gay met Boyzone

“Ireland grew up under Gay Byrne and we will never see his like again.”

His wife Kathleen and their daughters Crona and Suzy said he died at home surrounded by his family.

“We wish to thank everybody for their love and support during Gay’s illness, particularly the wonderful teams in the Mater Hospital, St Francis Hospice and the Irish Cancer Society,” they said.

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INM

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Gay Byrne interviewed Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams on the Late Late Show in 1994

Obituary: Gay Byrne

Gay Byrne, or Gaybo as he was almost universally known, was the leading Irish broadcaster of his era.

As anchor of the Late Late Show, he steered the audience through the highs and lows of Irish life.

From Ballybunion to Buncrana, he was a familiar and controversial face on Irish screens every Friday night, presiding over the shifting moods of the country.

Read more: The leading Irish broadcaster of his era

Byrne hosted the Late Late Show – which combined light entertainment and current affairs – in a relaxed but intelligent manner.

The show embraced discussion about divorce, abortion and sexuality, which were regarded as controversial subjects in Ireland at the time.

It made headlines with highlights such as a 1993 interview with Annie Murphy, who had a child with the former Bishop of Galway Eamon Casey.

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Sportsfile

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Byrne’s wife Kathleen Watkins – pictured with him in 2015 – said he died surrounded by his family

In 1992, the then Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke fell foul of the show when he was coaxed into singing Oh My Darling Clementine on a day when seven Protestant workmen were killed in an IRA bomb.

Byrne also fronted a long-running radio show that was first known as the Gay Byrne Hour and later the Gay Byrne Show.

He also presented the Rose of Tralee pagent, the Housewife of the Year competition and as a range of special programmes.

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INM

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Singer Sinead O’Connor appeared on Byrne’s final Late Late Show in 1999

He presented his final daily radio show in 1998 and his last Late Late Show the following summer.

Early in his career he also worked for Granada Television and the BBC.

President Higgins said Mr Byrne’s work “shone a light not only on the bright but also the dark sides of Irish life”.

“[He helped] shape our conscience, our self-image and our idea of who we might be,” added the president.

Some of Byrne’s fellow broadcasters took to social media to pay tribute to him.

Graham Norton, the Irish presenter who hosts TV and radio shows for the BBC, said Byrne “showed us all how it should be done”.

Irish comedian and presenter Dara Ó Briain tweeted that Byrne had lived an “enormous life”.

Presenter Eamonn Holmes, from Northern Ireland, called him “the broadcaster we all wanted to be”.

Byrne was described as Ireland’s greatest broadcaster by the ITV presenter Piers Morgan.

The Irish former Manchester United and Aston Villa footballer Paul McGrath, who was interviewed by Byrne, said the presenter had been “so kind to me”.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said Byrne “changed Ireland for the better”.

Dublin’s lord mayor said a book of condolence would open on Tuesday to allow people to send their sympathies to Byrne’s family.

In spite of his considerable success, Byrne faced financial problems after his pension was wiped out during the Irish recession.

A dispute between a financial fund and his family partnership was settled in court last year.



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From Brexit to Britten – John Humphrys gets weekly Classic FM show

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John Humphrys in the Today studio

John Humphrys will go from grilling politicians to toasting composers after landing a weekly Classic FM show.

The presenter will “share his own stories and reflections on his favourite composers and their music” in a Sunday afternoon slot from 5 January.

Humphrys was known for interrogating political figures on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme until his departure in September after 32 years on the show.

“It’s proof positive that there really is a life after politics,” he said.

“And a rather more inspiring one at that.”

The 76-year-old was given the Classic FM job after sitting in as a guest host on the station’s breakfast show for a week in October.

Classic FM senior managing editor Sam Jackson said there had been a “hugely positive reaction” to Humphrys’ stint.

The move comes despite the fact Humphrys told BBC News two weeks after leaving Today that he had no plans to go back to broadcasting.

“I don’t feel any need to get back in front of a microphone or indeed a camera,” he said. “Perhaps I will, but at the moment no I don’t.”

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Media captionJohn Humphrys: “I don’t feel any need to get back in front of a microphone or indeed a camera”

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Nicky Campbell pays tribute to ‘wonderful mum’

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Nicky Campbell and his mother Sheila

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Nicky Campbell, pictured with his mother Sheila: “She was my adoptive mum. She was my real mum”

BBC Radio 5 Live’s Nicky Campbell has written a heartfelt tribute to his “wonderful” mother Sheila, who has died at the age of 96.

Along with her husband, Frank Campbell, she adopted Nicky as a four-day-old baby in 1961.

Sheila Campbell, a World War Two radar operator who became a social worker, was part of Nicky’s 2007 episode of BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?

She also spoke about being a radar operator on BBC Radio 5 Live in June.

“The day she and Dad adopted me was the day I won the lottery,” he tweeted.

Campbell, who missed presenting Thursday’s edition of 5 Live Breakfast, added that Sheila “doted on her grandchildren and my girls completely adored her. Everyone did.”

His co-host Rachel Burden choked up as she prepared to read out the statement before handing over to her co-host Geoff Lloyd.

Burden then added: “I knew her in the course of my friendship with Nicky developing over the years. She was an incredible woman and I feel really, really privileged to have known her.

“Nicky will be back at work tomorrow because, as he says, his mum would have said, ‘Of course you should be working, it’s the general election results day.’

“So he will be here tomorrow. And we just all want to send all our thoughts on to Nicky and the girls and Tina and all his family today. You’re very, very much in our thoughts.”

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Media captionThis clip is originally from 5 Live Breakfast on Tuesday 5 June 2019.

Earlier this year, Sheila spoke to Campbell on 5 Live Breakfast to talk about her role in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two. She was presented with a medal of service for her work in 2017.

Stationed at Beachy Head, she helped to guide RAF planes to their targets during the D-Day campaign.

She was proud to have played a part in the invasion, but said she would spend the 75th anniversary “thinking a lot about the lives that were lost on the beaches, and at that time”.

‘So proud’ of his family

Who Do You Think You Are? saw Campbell investigate the roots of his Scottish family, especially his adoptive father Frank, who died in 1996.

He discovered more about his father’s time serving with the Indian army during World War Two – fighting Japanese troops in what has come to be known as “the forgotten war” – and had some shocking revelations about his grandfather’s childhood.

Summing up the experience, he said: “I’m so proud of this extraordinary family I was adopted into. All the stories I’ve heard somehow all contributed to making my dad the most wonderful dad that I could have had.

“It couldn’t have been for me more fascinating, revealing and enlightening. A family of which I am so proud and a dad of which I’m so proud. I just wish he were here to share it.”

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BBC Sound of 2020: Who’s on the longlist?

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A selection of bedroom musicians, indie bands and retro-futuristic soul singers are being tipped for success on BBC Music’s Sound of 2020 list.

The longlist features 10 rising acts, from punk-pop firebrand Yungblud to soul-baring songwriter Celeste.

Other nominees include DIY musician Beabadoobee, who is signed to the same management company as The 1975; and Dublin rock band Inhaler, fronted by Bono’s son Elijah Hewson.

The winner will be revealed in January.

Now in its 18th year, the Sound of… list showcases the hottest new artists for the coming year. Past winners includes Adele, Sam Smith, Years & Years, 50 Cent, Sigrid and, earlier this year, Octavian.

It is voted for by 170 music critics, broadcasters and DJs, as well as former nominees such as Billie Eilish, Lewis Capaldi and Chvrches.

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Celeste has been hotly tipped following the success of her heart-rending single Strange

The 2020 selection sees a retreat from grime and UK rap, which had established a strong presence on the list over the last five years.

In their place are a clutch of female artists who represent the rise of British R&B – from the sweet-but-gritty sounds of Joy Crookes to the soulful poetry of Arlo Parks.

But the one to beat is Celeste, a “shy singer with a star’s voice”, who has already won the Brits’ Rising Star award and been named BBC Music Introducing’s artist of the year.

BBC Music Sound of 2020
Artist Who are they? Key track
Arlo Parks Soulful poet unpicking the anxieties of a generation Cola
Beabadoobee Dreamy, lo-fi bedroom pop If You Want To
Celeste Timeless soul to tug at your heartstrings Strange
Easy Life Genre-bending indie-funk quintet Nightmares
Georgia One-woman dance machine About Work The Dancefloor
Inhaler Shimmering, atmospheric rock anthems My Honest Face
Joesef Self-confessed “emotional sad boy” from Glasgow Play Me Something Nice
Joy Crookes South London stories filled with wit and romance Don’t Let Me Down
Squid Multi-tentacled art-rock polymaths Houseplants
Yungblud Hypersonic emo-pop for the “underrated youth” Original Me

Hailing from Dublin, Inhaler have built an impressive live following since forming at school over a shared love of bands like Joy Division, The Strokes, The Stone Roses and The Cure.

Once you know the U2 connection, it’s hard not to the similarities between Eli Hewson’s soaring vocals and those of his father – but the band have worked hard to stand on their own two feet.

“For me and for us as a band, we’ve known that there’s going to be doors open,” Hewson told the NME. “But those doors will shut just as fast as they open if we’re not good.”

They’re not the only act on the longlist with famous connections. Georgia, who scored a major club hit this year with About Work The Dancefloor, is the daughter of Leftfield’s Neil Barnes, while Yungblud is the grandson of Rick Harrison, who played with T Rex in the 1970s.

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Yungblud has built up a huge following with singles like Original Me and 11 Minutes

The Doncaster-born singer is the most high-profile name on the 2020 longlist, with 11 million monthly listeners on Spotify – more than all the other artists combined.

Born Dominic Harrison, the 22-year-old has positioned himself as the voice of a generation, singing about topics like sexual assault, corporate greed, anxiety and “the underrated youth”.

“I never want to be predictable,” he told the BBC earlier this year. “If people know what I’m going to do next, then I’m completely shafted.”

Sensitive singer-songwriter Joesef, meanwhile, has been branded one to watch in Scotland – where he became the second artist to sell out Glasgow’s legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut before releasing any music online (the first was Lewis Capaldi).

The longlist is completed by two bands who defy categorisation – Leicester quintet Easy Life, who started out as jazz musicians before exploring the outer reaches of hip-hop, funk and pop; and Brighton’s Squid, who describe their music as “the Coronation Street theme tune played on flutes by angry children”.

The annual Sound of list celebrates musicians who have not been the lead artist on a UK top 10 single or album by 21 October 2019. Artists who have appeared on TV talent shows within the last three years are also ineligible.

The top five will be revealed in the New Year on BBC Radio 1 and BBC News, with one artist announced each day from Sunday 5 January until the winner is unveiled on Thursday 9 January.

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