Entertainment & Arts

Val Doonican, Irish singer, dies at 88

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Media captionLizo Mzimba looks back at the life and career of Val Doonican

Irish singer and TV entertainer Val Doonican has died aged 88.

His family said he died "peacefully" at a nursing home in Buckinghamshire. He had not been ill, but his daughter said his "batteries had just run out".

The performer was a regular fixture on TV with The Val Doonican show which ran on the BBC from 1965 to 1986, featuring his own performances and guest artists.

He was also rarely out of the UK charts in the 1960s and '70s with songs like Walk Tall and Elusive Butterfly.

In the album chart, he had five successive top 10 records and even knocked The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band off the top spot in 1967 with Val Doonican Rocks, But Gently.

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Media captionBruce Forsyth says Val Doonican was a "a one-off"

In a statement, his family said: "He was a wonderful husband, father and grandfather and will be greatly missed by family, friends and his many fans."

Irish entertainer Roy Walker told the BBC Doonican was "an example to everybody".

"The way he conducted himself he was the consummate professional.

"In the early days I was his opening comedian and he was one of the most generous people on stage. He would go out and do 10 minutes at the top of the show and introduce you - even though you were nobody - as his 'very special guest'.

"He was a joy to be with, a pleasure to work with and one of the all-time good guys in showbusiness."

Image caption Val Doonican was known for his trademark rocking chair and colourful knitwear
Image caption The entertainer fronted some 25 Christmas specials

Sir Bruce Forsyth also paid tribute saying "he was a one-off".

"He was just a lovely guy. What you saw is what you got, this is a very sad day", he told the BBC.

"Although we never saw him very much in the last few years, I worked with him a couple of times and enjoyed that very much.

"He had this way of relaxing his co-stars and his audience and that went right through the screens into your homes.

"It's not simple to do what he did. To be relaxed as he was is an art. You can't go in front of millions of people on television and be that relaxed and that good."

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Media captionVal Doonican "brought joy to many people", says Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell

Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell told the BBC it was a "very sad day for the music industry".

He went from being a Doonican fan to working with him.

"The first time I met him it was lovely and I was certainly not disappointed from what I had built up in my mind of what he might be like.

"He was a very peaceful man and had a very calm persona, just as he came across on television. He was a funny man, he would joke away.

"He had a great voice and had the big hits with the songs we remember but there were also the funny songs that captured people's imaginations too. He certainly was able to entertain in the widest possible sense."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Doonican with his wife, Lynn, with whom he had been married for 54 years

Irish comic Adrian Walsh tweeted: "Spent four years as opening act for Val Doonican. He was one of the greats on and of [sic] stage. Thank you for your friendship."

Born in Waterford, Ireland, Doonican's career took off after he was booked to appear on Sunday Night at the Palladium in 1963.

It led him to be offered his own BBC show - for which he became known for his trademark rocking chair, colourful jumpers and cardigans - and kick-started his recording career.

He filmed some 25 Christmas specials, which Doonican told The Express in 2013 he "couldn't bear to watch".

"They became something of a national institution, attracting audiences of up to 19 million. It felt embarrassing seeing myself. We'd sit as a family enjoying ourselves but as soon as my show started, I'd nip off to another room," he said.

His other hits included The Special Years, What Would I Be and If The Whole World Stopped Loving. He also sang the theme song for the film Ring of Bright Water.

Doonican stopped performing in 2009 after more than 60 years in showbusiness.

He is survived by his wife Lynn, daughters Sarah and Fiona and grandchildren Bethany and Scott.

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