Obituary: Gerry Anderson

Gerry Anderson Image copyright BBC Press Office
Image caption Gerry Anderson was one of Northern Ireland's best known broadcasters

To radio and television audiences, Gerry Anderson meant humour, music and a wry look at life.

Born in 1944 in his beloved 'Stroke City' - the term he coined for Londonderry/Derry - he soon showed a talent for music and performing.

His unique style of broadcasting made him a household name in Northern Ireland.

He won acclaim and audience affection for his daily show on BBC Radio Ulster and for TV programmes like The Show and Anderson on the Box.

Self taught, it was as a guitarist he first introduced himself to audiences.

Ability to connect

An early break came on the Manchester music scene, where he worked the clubs.

Tours of the UK and abroad followed with the showband, The Chessmen, and while living in Canada, he joined a band called Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks.

But after a few years, the excesses of life on the road lost their appeal and in his own words, Anderson "dropped out of rock and roll and went to university".

Returning home to Derry, he settled long enough to study for a degree in sociology and social anthropology, and then came a postgraduate diploma in education.

A teaching career followed, but it soon became clear Gerry's place was in a radio studio or in front of a TV camera.

Image copyright BBC Press Office
Image caption Gerry Anderson's had an irreverent, laid-back style of broadcasting and his easy manner with listeners and viewers won him many fans in a career spanning three decades

As a daily radio show presenter and chat show host, his wry humour, musicality and ability to connect with people resulted in an array of awards.

Sense of the ridiculous

The director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, led tributes to the broadcaster, describing him as a man of "great wit and mischief".

"I had the great pleasure of being in London on the occasion when Gerry was awarded the Hall of Fame for the UK Radio Academy, which just demonstrated what a true legend of the industry he was, a really significant figure," Mr Johnston said.

"I think in Gerry's case - it's often said lightly but in his case truly, I don't think we'll ever see his like again."

From a showband guitarist to chat show host and even whimsical documentary maker, Gerry Anderson attracted audiences by his casual approach and sense of the ridiculous.

Image copyright BBC Press Office
Image caption In 2011, the BBC broadcast On The Air, a clay animation series which recreated the quirky real-life phone calls Gerry Anderson took from listeners on his radio programme

A brief spell with Radio 4 proved to be an awkward mismatch, but years later he found a role making documentaries for the station.

Back home in Northern Ireland, audiences still loved him and so did his competitors.

Final goodbye

His one-time rival and long-time friend, Gerry Kelly, hosted a TV show that aired at the same time as one of Anderson's BBC series.

"We joked and laughed about it - let the public argue," Mr Kelly said.

"But I have to say that Gerry Anderson was one of the most innovative and clever broadcasters that it has been my privilege to know.

"He was unique in Northern Ireland, absolutely unique. He was unique in the whole of the United Kingdom."

Always looking for the giggle in everyone and every situation, Gerry Anderson has said his final goodbye, leaving us with memories of not so much what he said, but the whimsical and tender way he saw life.

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