Eamonn Andrews: A Life Remembered

Eamonn Andrews: A Life Remembered

related pages...

Eamonn Andrews

first tribute

Eamonn Andrews

second tribute

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

The Legend That Was Eamonn Andrews

a celebration to mark the presenter's centenary year

This was his life

Maurice Leonard recalls Eamonn Andrews

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success

Venues and Sets

the studio look and locations


the show's fifty year history

Ralph Edwards

the man who created it all

Eamonn Looks Back

first-hand recollections

Muhammad Ali

Bernard Braden

Matt Busby

Jilly Cooper

Jimmy Cricket

Dickie Davies

Bob Hope

Barbara Kelly

Spike Milligan

Dudley Moore

David Nixon

Paul Nicholas

Pat Phoenix

Ted Ray

Jimmy Tarbuck

Ernie Wise

Terry Wogan

Philip JONES

I still cannot believe that Eamonn has gone from us. For so many years he was part of our lives on radio and on television.

We will always remember that distinctive voice from sports commentaries and as a panel game chairman (remember Ignorance is Bliss?) and of course we cannot think of the early years of television without thinking of What's My Line? and This Is Your Life. Eamonn had truly 'signed in'.

My own connections with Eamonn go back to radio days and subsequently we both joined ABC TV at Teddington Studios at the instigation of Brian Tesler. Many years and many series followed – The Eamonn Andrews Show on Sunday nights; still the only talk show ever to appear in the network top twenty. One memorable week Eamonn's guests were Noel Coward, Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali and Dudley Moore – all in the same 60 minute show! Then of course in 1969 we revived This Is Your Life and followed it with What's My Line?. It, too, promptly went into the top twenty. And along the way was Top Of The World, an international quiz linking Australia, the UK and America.

Eamonn Andrews, Howard Thomas and Brian Tesler

It started at ABC, when Eamonn joined to present WORLD OF SPORT and THE EAMONN ANDREWS SHOW. Howard Thomas and Brian Tesler were on the top table with Eamonn

But for me my most vivid memory of Eamonn will remain the 'Life' he sprang on me on the occasion of my 25th anniversary at Teddington Studios. It all started when Muir Sutherland asked Bob Louis to spring some sort of surprise. With, I understand, little time to plan, Malcolm Morris and his team got together the impossible under my own nose!

The nicest thing is that Eamonn was so anxious for it to be enjoyable. Even though it was 'closed circuit' for friends only, Eamonn put his customary drive and enthusiasm to the project, because he wanted it to work for me.

And that actually characterises the man we all miss so much; he wasn't just making a programme with This Is Your Life, he intended it to be a happy occasion. He was as interested in making it a day to remember for the subject as he was in the show itself.

He was unique – I believe our greatest broadcaster. Of course, with our press fraternity being what it is, there were the inevitable knocks and accusations of 'old hat'. But what other TV personality stayed at the top for so long and what other programme has the track record of This Is Your Life? I am proud to have known Eamonn and lucky to have worked with him. As I said at the beginning, I still cannot believe he has gone from us.

Eamonn Andrews and Philip Jones

The pick-up - catching the 'subject' - was always the most harrowing moment for Eamonn, but the in-house celebration of Philip Jones' 25 years at Teddington was a much more researched affair, and also marked Philip's long association with Eamonn


Some memories from a friend and colleague:

Friendships are forged by chance and circumstance in television. Eamonn's and mine went back to the early 50s at the BBC, when I was a very young producer and he was the young and enormously successful presenter of What's My Line?

Eamonn had recorded a double-sided 'story song' for Parlophone called 'Shifting Whispering Sands'. I was producing a musical show with Frank Chacksfield's orchestra and thought it might be fun to visualise Eamonn's record with the aid of trick effects (we did have inlay and overlay in those days) and some brilliant animated graphics by Alfred Wurmser. Eamonn very much enjoyed doing something different on the screen; we discovered we shared a fondness for Havana cigars, Italian food and American crime fiction; and that's how it happened.

Ten years later, Eamonn was still at the BBC and even more successful: presenting not only What's My Line? but also This Is Your Life and Crackerjack on television and Sports Report on radio. I was the Programme Controller at ABC, and in deep trouble: the ITA considered ITV's weekend sport was a disgrace, and what were we going to do about it? What we did do was to devise World of Sport, but to give it any chance of succeeding we needed a presenter of stature, authority and appeal. Who better than Eamonn? But his entire broadcasting career had been spent with the BBC; why should he want to leave them?

Well, for Eamonn there was the challenge again of doing something different – indeed, a double challenge, because the bait I offered him was the opportunity to host, in addition, a live network weekly chat show – British television's first. Also, I think Eamonn's sense of humour and love of the dramatic were tickled by the way in which the negotiations for his defection were managed. To ensure absolute secrecy, I used to be dropped off by taxi in a leafy London square and approach with great circumspection a large black Mercedes with tinted windows. The driver would let me into the back seat and take a walk while I discussed terms with Eamonn's then manager, the late and much-loved Teddy Sommerfield. Just like the movies.

So, in 1964, Eamonn came to ITV; and stayed, right to the end. When ABC metamorphosed into Thames, World of Sport was replaced by Today, another marathon display of Eamonn's talent for tackling the terrors of live TV; and the Sunday night chat show was succeeded by the return of This Is Your Life, on which he was still working when he died. It was Eamonn's idea to bring the show back. As Thames' then Director of Programmes, I told him he was crazy, that the critics would savage us for exhuming a BBC reject, that it simply wouldn't work.

He wasn't; they didn't; it did. Shows you how much I knew. And how much Eamonn did. He had the remarkable sense of what the public liked, and a healthy respect for it. The viewers sensed this; they recognised his innate decency and friendliness and warmth, and they loved him for it. They will miss him even more than we will.

Eamonn Andrews, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope

THE EAMONN ANDREWS SHOW brought the chat show to Britain, and with TV, many famous faces. Here Bing Crosby and Bob Hope at the end of the Road to Teddington

Eamonn Andrews, Muhammad Ali, Lucille Ball, Noel Coward and Dudley Moore

Muhammad Ali, then still better known as Cassius Clay, was an early guest, with Lucille Ball, Noel Coward and Dudley Moore

Eamonn Andrews and Racquel Welch

Racquel Welch also brought Hollywood glamour to the show


Eamonn Andrews and Roy Bottomley

Roy Bottomley, seen with Eamonn in the dressing room, worked on the Life throughout its history


(For 24 years programme editor, writer and consultant on Eamonn's shows)

Manhattan or Manchester, LA or Liverpool, wherever we travelled Irish eyes were always smiling for Eamonn.

One freezing Sunday night we boarded a 'ghost' train for Cardiff.

The buffet was padlocked. I leapt from the train to telephone our hotel and warn them we would arrive famished and thirsty. Back on board it was a totally different scene.

The Irish crew had spotted Eamonn and not only had they opened the bar but the kitchens, too. We were served with giant steaks and plenty of 'the other half'.

At our Cardiff hotel the waiters were Irish. They served us with even more whopping steaks and plied us with the other half of the other half. Eamonn looked me straight in the eye – the one still open – and whispered: "Don't let on we've eaten. The boys will be offended..."

In Hollywood, an expatriate Dubliner bell-hop pointed to the doors of a suite occupied by a shapely screen actress – who had nothing to do with the show we planned – and enquired of Eamonn, without a camera in sight: "I'll knock if you want to surprise her now, Eamonn."

At one hotel in the North, Eamonn was bitten by a bed bug – "It had clogs on, I swear" he said – and the hotel doctor was called to give him an inspection. Being Irish he kept Eamonn up most of the night and made not immodest inroads into the bar stock. Next morning, on Eamonn's account, was the bill for the doctor's services.

On one of the last This Is Your Life programmes made the subject was Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket. On the eve of the show he bumped into our surprise finish, flown in from Australia, in the middle of Oxford Street – a million to one chance. "Only an Irishman could manage that", said Eamonn.

Mind you, Eamonn would be the first to admit he could be capable of the odd "Irishism". Making idle chat at the dentists he pulled himself up short, believing he had come within a whisker of 'blowing' the subject of our next programme. Shaking his head, Eamonn said solemnly: "That's the last time I open my mouth at the dentists!"

And who else but the Big Fella could have made his much-heralded debut on ITV wearing a pair of braces stamped: 'Property of the BBC' – a fact pointed out by the late Ted Ray to fifteen million viewers. Said Ted: "When Eamonn kissed the Blarney Stone, it kissed him back..."

Hoping for the same effect was the Irish waiter we had when we smuggled Eamonn into Manchester to surprise Pat Phoenix on the set of Coronation Street. As he poured the drinks, the waiter said to Eamonn: "You know, it's your fault I'm in England!"

Politely, Eamonn asked why; the waiter explained: "My mother said to me 'Look how well that nice Dublin boy Eamonn Andrews has done for himself since he went to England. Now you be off with yourself Michael – get across that water and do the same!'"

Eamonn's roar of laughter caught the waiter by surprise and he spilled the wine into Eamonn's lap.

Said the Big Fella: "God bless all here."

Four words he would have wanted in the script today.

Malcolm MORRIS

Eamonn Andrews and Malcolm Morris

By 1986, Malcolm Morris was the Life's producer - renewing a career long relationship with Eamonn

It was I suppose the ultimate nightmare every television professional has. On a live chat show (The Eamonn Andrews Show, 1964, in mid series) Eamonn had just presented one of his guests to his audience of millions when it happened... a total stranger from the studio audience had hidden behind the scenery and suddenly walked out in front of the cameras and stood beside Eamonn. The audience went into a stunned silence. Eamonn, who was in mid-sentence, without a moment's hesitation said: "I don't know who you are, but sit down and tell us your name", and carried on a brief conversation with the stranger and then went on with the programme. No problem for him, but I, as his producer, went into shock!

I had two really heavy blasts of wrath from Eamonn, the first was in 1952 when as a new features photographer I sidled up to him behind the scenery just before a live What's My Line? went on air at the Shepherd's Bush BBC studios and said: "I've just taken a great picture of your mystery guest."

I got no further... I was ticked off, dressed down and thoroughly decimated for even mentioning the taboo subject. The second time was 21 years later in April 1974.

I was his producer and had set up a 'dummy' This Is Your Life to hide the truth that we were really going to do 'His Life'. The dummy programme was of course a total fiction... Eamonn telephoned me in the production office the day before he thought we were making the programme and roasted me about the thin script... words flew at me that I never knew a Papal Knight knew, he hated it, the research was rotten and where were the film clips? Why couldn't he see them?

I suffered twenty minutes of professional astonishment; Eamonn couldn't believe that things could get so bad.

It's all been said by many people and it's true, he was the most professional man; he demanded it of himself and anyone who worked with him.

He loved to live dangerously and if necessary live without rehearsal, three headlines at once was fine and he could learn a full page in 15 minutes and could wind it up any time his earpiece said so, in however many seconds you wanted... boy, he was good! Eamonn was a devout Catholic and suffered a Jewish producer very well... I converted him to chicken soup and even Salt Beef... the religious bit was harder but I was working on it. Whenever we were flying he would genuflect just before take off... "can I plug into that idea," I asked, "just in case you're right." We had the most happy times, we drank, argued and worked together. I'm proud to say that he was my friend and father and I loved him.

The best summation of Eamonn is in his own words on the last page of his 1963 autobiography, 'This Is My Life':

'So where do I go from here? I'd love to write stories, to write a novel, to write a play, and to write poetry for the sheer relaxation of it and the pleasure of ending up with a poem even if everyone else thinks it's a bad one. I'd like to have lots of children. I'd like to be a good golfer. I'd like to visit Australia. I'd like to, maybe, do less work! And yet, I don't know because there is so much I still want to do. I want to break new ground on television and pioneer new types of programmes.

But when all is said and done, I suppose the thing I really want above all else is to be with Grainne and that tiny triumphant knocker-over of ashtrays – Emma. By the time she is old enough to read this I wonder how the world will have changed. I am not at all worried about it. Bombs, space travel, racial conflict, wars. She and her generation will find the answers. There is an old saying – "God never closed one door but he opened another"'


It was, indeed, a most brotherly relationship – Eamonn's and mine.

Perhaps I should say 'fatherly' relationship for, having conceived the show, my hosting of This Is Your Life in the United States was eight years longer than Eamonn's; so you can imagine the excitement of brotherhood that came with watching Eamonn compere This Is Your Life in England.

And to make our association even deeper, your older television viewers may remember that in 1955 I actually surprised Eamonn as the first This Is Your Life subject in England.

So as a Surprisee he was a compassionate Surpriser.

Eamonn Andrews and Ralph Edwards

Ralph Edwards presents the first This Is Your Life on British television - the subject is... Eamonn Andrews

This initial double-barrelled union blossomed into a 37-year deeply-furrowed friendship that included, of course, Eamonn's beloved Grainne and my beloved Barbara. And – our three children – each.

We were more than guests in each other's homes, we were 'family'. Two summers ago we 'holidayed' at the Andrews Classic 'Quarry' home in Ireland. This past summer the Andrews were our guests in Beverly Hills, and on one of those sun-shining days on a hill overlooking Universal Studios in Burbank, stuffed with the rewards of a multi-coursed Chinese restaurant dinner, the four of us tried desperately to laugh away the magnitude of our Chinese banquet. The pictures we took at that last outing are treasures for us.

Had we known then that the next time we met there would be but three of us, what would we have said? What could we say, except that which we were saying then – in our laughter and ramblings: 'Let it not change. Let it go on in this warm, loving, special friendship.'

And so it shall. Grainne – Emma – Fergal – Niamh – Barbara and I say, we are yet and will be forever 'family'. Indeed, This Is Our Life.

This Is Your Life production team

THIS IS YOUR LIFE - brought to Thames by Eamonn - was the show for which he is best remembered. Thames made 480 shows, over 18 years, since 1969. He was the first to admit the LIFE was a team show. This TV Times team photograph, taken at the Royalty Theatre in 1981, included those controllers involved, led by then producer Jack Crawshaw, and the programme's service Departments


(Who worked on This Is Your Life from its start on ITV in 1969 until 1982 and was Producer from 1974 to 1982)

There was a moment in our This Is Your Life tribute to Muhammad Ali when the three times world heavyweight boxing champion turned to Eamonn and said: "I feel like a little bitty boy whose just getting a new toy for Christmas."

I know that Ali has never been stuck for a word but for Eamonn he could not have said anything nicer. And if at that moment Ali saw Eamonn as his very own Father Christmas then This Is Your Life was his sleigh. And what a perfect vehicle the programme was for Eamonn who was never happier than when he was making others even happier still.

As we know Eamonn loved his work with a passion that was second only to his love for his family, Grainne, Emma, Fergal and Niamh. And those of us blessed with the good fortune to share both were privileged. Eamonn was one of life's givers and the giving didn't stop when the end credits rolled. Sure, there were times at work when being the dedicated programme maker that he was made him a tough task master to please, but the excellence he wanted was for us all to share.

His illustrious career record speaks for itself but for me looking back over 18 years of knowing him as a colleague and friend it was his warmth and humour off screen that made him most lovable.

I have happy memories of Eamonn springing surprises in London, Paris, New York and even aboard the QE2, but I have a particularly personal recollection of a night in Manchester way back in May 1971 at the party after This Is Your Life Sir Matt Busby. I invited Eamonn to meet six guests from the audience: my parents, and my two brothers and sisters-in-law. It was the first time my family had met him and like so many before and since were naturally thrilled to do so. Particularly the older statesman of the group who was greeted by Eamonn with the words "you look too young to be this fella's Dad." Where upon my dad thanked him and gave him a shilling, and like the rest of the family has been a devoted fan ever since.

Eamonn had a great sense of fun and loved to share a joke, particularly if it helped to relieve the tension on a busy programme day. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me telling you a favourite. He told it as if it happened to him and really it needs that marvellous Irish accent to do it full justice. But anyway, here goes. He was driving across Ireland one warm summers day when the need for a thirst quencher led him to stop at a small village pub. When he went inside it was empty except for one person, the barman, behind his bar, drying a glass. When Eamonn asked for a Guinness the barman told him that he couldn't serve him because it was out of licenced hours. They would be open again in 15 minutes so why didn't he take the weight off his feet, sit down at a table and wait. And that he did for about 10 seconds before the barman leaned over the bar and said "would you like a drink while you're waiting?"

Eamonn was a most genial host and a very generous man. As any of the This Is Your Life team would tell you never a Christmas went by without a special delivery from 'himself'. Each present carefully wrapped with an individual personal message which whether in English or Gaelic was always in the famous green ink and always meant thanks. Eamonn was a very kind and caring man. In August this year my parents celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and guess who made their day with a surprise phone call from Dublin? Who else but Eamonn. Yes, the same Eamonn, the family man who just a few weeks ago on hearing that BBC presenters John Stapleton, former This Is Your Life script writer and Today presenter – and his wife Lynn were celebrating the birth of their first baby, was amongst the first to send them a note which read 'Congratulations, it beats telly doesn't it?'

I know that John and Lynn are going to keep Eamonn's touching note in a scrapbook for Nicholas James and tell him in years to come what a great man Eamonn Andrews was. A man we have loved and who we are proud to have known.

Eamonn Andrews and the cast of the musical Hair

With the beginning of Thames, the local news programme TODAY continued to bring Eamonn face to face with the top names of the day. HAIR was one of the sensations of the permissive sixties and Eamonn was sent to interview some of the young unknowns among the cast. Some, like Paul Nicholas and Marsha Hunt, became better known as a result of the show's success

Eamonn Andrews and Lord Snowdon

Lord Snowdon was among those who came to the TODAY studios

Eamonn Andrews, John Lennon and Yoko Ono

John Lennon and Yoko Ono also made the trip

Eamonn Andrews and Margaret Thatcher

As an up and coming Minister in Sir Ted Heath's government, Maggie Thatcher faced TODAY's studio audience


Eamonn Andrews, David Hamilton, Ernie Wise and Andrew Gardner

There's an old cliché in our business – one picture is worth a thousand words. Although I knew Eamonn long before this photo (above) was taken, and I've got to know him better in the years since – this one picture captures all my happiest memories of the man.

Just take a look – Eamonn, David, Bryan, Ernie and some old buffoon on the end of the chorus line. Warm Californian sunshine with champagne to match and Ernie had just given us all the giggles!

The toast then was to the British Television Week in Hollywood... my toast now is to Eamonn, the happiest of men.


I think I can say without becoming embarrassed that I really loved the man. I found him a splendid person to be with all the time. He never got show business ego, he never got a big head, he was always very normal.

He could sit with kings and simple people. That's the sort of guy he was; in all my career in this profession, he is going to leave the biggest hole that I know.


I heard of Eamonn Andrews' passing and, of course, I'm very saddened by that, and I want to give my sympathy to all his friends and especially his relatives. I had a lot of fun with Eamonn as we did several This Is Your Life shows, and he always brought a great group of people around.

When they honoured me, they did a two-hour show a few years ago, and it was great, and of course, I played golf with Eamonn quite a bit on his course at Moor Park, and I always had a lot of fun with him. He came back and honoured Dudley Moore and I was on that show with him. That's the last time I saw him. The world will miss him, because he had a great sense of humour and he was a very personable chap.

He was, perhaps, the most respected man, the man with the biggest reputation in television. He made that enormous leap from BBC to ITV that I recall so well. I came to see him work, and he gave me so much advice in this very studio. As I came through the gate the security man said to me - "By the way, Richard," (I was Richard Davies in those days) he said to me, "There's a telegram for you." And it was a telegram from the man himself. He said - "Be a star, but above all, enjoy yourself." That was from Eamonn, and I always remember that, very, very well.

I also remember him in so many other ways. He was a man's man in the sense that he loved to be with the lads. He liked to go and have a couple of drinks maybe, and talk sport, talk boxing the whole time, and so knowledgeably. I always remember on '66, World Cup Final day, Cassius Clay arrived at Wembley, and they saw each other and they almost put their arms around each other, and they talked, talked, talked boxing the whole time.

Then suddenly I was snatched for This Is Your Life, that I recall well, some twelve or thirteen years ago. All I saw was this masked wrestler, wearing a black mask, with Mick McManus, and I heard this voice: "You know who I am, Dickie." And I thought, that's got to be Eamonn's voice, what is he doing here? I didn't even dream that it could happen. And when we actually did the show, which was live, he was at the back, and the countdown had thirty seconds to go, Eamonn had a cigarette, thirty seconds, twenty-five seconds to go, he put his cigarette out, twenty seconds, fifteen seconds, he looked at me, he said - "I'm working tonight, you enjoy yourself."


He was a great wit. A funny man off the screen, away from it all when you're having a drink afterwards.

And I had a season ticket to the show, coming on with lots of friends, and I used to say to him - "Are you going to perspire tonight?" And he used to say - "Don't mention that." As soon as I came on, I'd just go to him - and he'd look away. He'd never look in my eyes, and he'd come up afterwards and say - "You..." and I just went "Eamonn..." and he'd roar laughing.

He was very good company and marvellous with sport. I used to jar about sports with him, he'd yarn on and, of course, he was such a good judge about everything. He was a great pro, a thoroughbred, an absolute thoroughbred professional.

Ignorance is Bliss team

The 'Ignorance is Bliss' line-up. Left to right: Harold Berens, Gladys Hay, Michael Moore and Question-Master Eamonn Andrews

Eamonn and Grainne Andrews

Eamonn's happy life in Dublin gave him a secure base - here with Grainne in their kitchen...

Eamonn Andrews

...and in his study


In 1961, when one Terry Wogan started his weary way up the broadcasting ladder, one Eamonn Andrews was already Chairman of the Irish Broadcasting Authority.

A legendary figure; a hero to all Irish broadcasters, a man who had crossed the Irish Sea and taken British radio and the British television, by storm.

Compere of the top-rated radio comedy Ignorance is Bliss; of the popular Saturday afternoon, Sports Report; chairman of the top-rated television show What's My Line? and presenter of This Is Your Life.

Twenty-six years later, when Eamonn Andrews was sadly taken from us, he was still presenting What's My Line? and This Is Your Life and still topping the ratings.

In an uncertain world, we can be sure of one thing: Nobody is ever going to enjoy that degree of success over such a long period, again.

So what was so special about Eamonn Andrews?

Nothing, and everything.

Nothing, because he never pretended to be anything other than an ordinary decent member of the public he was serving.

And everything? Because it was his particular skill to be able to convey this simplicity through the most difficult of all methods of communication – the television.

As they say in the Gaelic language that he loved: 'Ni fhachamid a leitheid aris'

We will not see his like again.


I started working with Eamonn back in the early 1950s. He was fronting a Saturday evening radio programme called Sports Report, and I was one of the Northern football reporters. As he was always in Broadcasting House, and I was always reporting from some glamorous location like Accrington Stanley, Oldham Athletic, Rotherham United, or Sheffield Wednesday, we never actually met. But I loved to tease him by ending my reports with the sort of remark that left him gasping, or at least temporarily short of a come-back.

The first time we ever physically met was in 1968, when he and I came together – it was to be for 10 years – to do the Thames nightly magazine programme: it was called Today. Do you know, on our very first meeting, Eamonn remembered the way how, long ago, I'd used to try and drop him in it with my handover lines, and he had a great laugh about it.

I took to him instantly from the moment we met. He was about the nicest man I ever bumped into in show business, and I'm not just saying that: I mean it. I went on teasing him with my hand-over lines all the years we worked together – it was really a sign of how much I thought of him – and Eamonn never batted an eyelid.

We often had dinner together after the show. We always went to the same little Italian restaurant in Soho – Bianchi's in Frith Street. We always had a table tucked away in a corner and, over lasagne or spaghetti bolognese or something simple like that, and a bottle or two of Italian wine, we'd sit and laugh over what had gone wrong – sometimes even over what had gone right! – with that night's show. We'd reminisce about those distant days when we worked together on BBC Radio, and we'd generally have a great evening.

One thing even a blind man would have noticed was the way Eamonn never tried to hog things. He was a genuinely modest man, as modest as his undoubted national fame would let him be. Another example: I used to write a weekly humorous column for Punch magazine. Eamonn used to write the occasional article for it. So from time to time he was invited to our famous Wednesday Punch lunches. He never ever tried to grab the limelight, or play the "I'm Eamonn Andrews" line. He just sat there, appreciating the lovely, witty company – which it always was – and laughing a lot, both with the company and sometimes at it, I suspect.

I loved the way he adored his wife, Grainne, and his family, and I speak as a family man myself. I respected completely the love he had for his religious faith, and I speak as a non-believer myself. I loved his courtesy, his good manners, his kindness, his generosity. He was a very, very nice man, and I'm pleased – no, I'm proud – to have worked with him for so long.

The Today team: Sandra Harris, Phillip McDonnell, Eamonn Andrews and Monty Modlyn

The early TODAY on-screen team of Sandra Harris, Phillip McDonnell, Eamonn and Monty Modlyn

Eamonn Andrews, Roger Moore and Lee Marvin

TODAY also brought the tough guys to Thames - Roger Moore and Lee Marvin

Eamonn Andrews

The professional performer


Eamonn Andrews was one of the nicest men I have ever met.

He remained at the top of his profession right to the end, because he never took anyone or anything for granted. Each bemused, laughingly tearful human being featured on This Is Your Life, each contestant or mystery guest on What's My Line? was treated with the same unfailing courtesy. Eamonn knew this was their moment of glory. Never did he attempt to hog the limelight.

Unlike so many of his profession, there was nothing phoney about Eamonn. He never became slick. Very shy, sick with nerves, he approached each programme with the same steely professionalism. He always did his homework. He always knew how to pick people and surround himself with a brilliant devoted staff who stayed with him for years.

In the little parties after each programme, which were always fun, Eamonn, despite his shyness, would move around the room having a word with everyone, making it a night to remember for some director's little niece, or some celebrity's daily woman, who'd never visited a television studio before.

He could be very funny particularly when sparring good-naturedly with his old adversary Barbara Kelly. He was also a man of strictest principle. When unemployment hit the four million mark a few years ago, a female author came on What's My Line? as mystery guest and with devastating insensitivity attacked those out of work for being idle and demanding why they didn't carry on working long beyond retiring age like she did. Eamonn's utter horror showed in his face.

He and I only had one slightly cross word, during the four series of What's My Line?, when I appeared on the programme in jeans, a striped man's shirt and braces. It didn't matter that this was highest fashion that summer. Irrespective of my sex, Eamonn felt I was insulting the viewers by appearing in shirt sleeves and braces.

He was also a very attractive man – with a marvellous physique, before he fell ill; eyes as blue as lobelias and that soft voice that reminded you of a peaty Irish river moving lazily over mossy sunlit stones.

Women liked him and felt safe with him, because, again unusual to show business, he had such a happy and stable home life. He adored his three children, and was very much in love with Grainne, his sparkly raven-haired wife.

I shall always remember him recounting with glee how on one occasion he had gone to his tailors in a great hurry to pick up a new suit. Whereupon one of the staff had bustled him into a changing room, saying they had a client who needed an overcoat altering who was very much the same build as Eamonn, and could they use him as a model.

Fuming, Eamonn allowed himself to be pinned and prodded and measured for twenty minutes. So incensed was he at the delay, that he was still grumbling about the incident when he got home in the evening. Unable to keep a straight face, Grainne had to run out of the room.

Eamonn's wrath however turned to amazed delight on Christmas Day when he unpacked his present from Grainne. It was the same beautiful overcoat now a perfect fit.

As I write this, it seems impossible that such a dear friend is dead. I hope it is a comfort to his wife and children, that he will live on in all our hearts.

Eamonn Andrews

Eamonn had always been keen on keeping fit - which made his sudden departure all the more shocking

George GALE

Since Eamonn died, wherever I have gone, strangers have come up to me saying things like "Sorry about Eamonn. I never knew him, but I shall miss him. I felt he was a good man."

He was that, all right, and a good deal more.

There have been other good boxing commentators, other good anchor men, other good panel chairmen, other good TV interviewers, there have been better journalists (as he was always, typically, the first to allow) and I dare say there may have been others who could have done This Is Your Life almost as well; but no-one in my experience evoked in his life more affection and, in his death, more regret among the public – his public – than Eamonn Andrews. Millions who never knew him felt they knew him. They loved him as one of themselves.

Television brings all manner of men and women into people's homes. Some are welcomed, some are not, and most do not stay for long. Hardly any remain there for good and become, through that strange process by which television transmutes those who appear a great deal on the screen into the close acquaintances of those who watch, both part of the furniture and a familiar friend. Eamonn did. He was a very welcome visitor who came and stayed.

Those who worked alongside him know of his professionalism, his attention to detail, the work he put into each performance; but it was not this which endeared him to those who saw him on the box. In a way it was almost its opposite.

You felt, watching Eamonn, that he was not entirely the professional, that he was not fully in control, that he was something of an amateur, that he was not so much fully-stretched as over-stretched, that he was always perilously close to putting his foot in it. That he never did, that in fact he always was in control, proved his professionalism. But the fraught feel to his performances reflected his constant desire to do his best; to be good enough was not good enough. Never for a moment did he become glib or blasé about his job. It was very characteristic that he preferred, and constantly fought for, live television; he thought it was better, more vivid if more rough-edged. He believed audiences could tell and enjoy the risks being run. His adrenalin never stopped flowing and he reckoned no one else's should either.

He frequently looked clumsy, even gauche; he was a big man, with the gentleness which often accompanies former boxers; he carried a punch and never showed it. He was more intelligent than he usually allowed to appear – sometimes he could seem a bit thick. Terry Wogan tells me this is how the Irish deal with the English, keeping their intelligence well-concealed. Be that as it may, Eamonn, a modest man who nonetheless knew his worth, had no side, no bull, no pretence, no airs – but plenty graciousness.

Neither fame nor wealth spoiled him. He saw to it that he seemed always the lesser person than whomever, however small, he was interviewing. He eschewed stardom and his eyes were not starry. He never lost the common touch, and thereby always kept what he had fully earned, that rarest gift, the friendship of the public.

Barbara KELLY

Eamonn... from 1950... through radio and television... to 1987... nobody had to say... Andrews... everyone knew who Eamonn was. As far as I'm concerned... he still is. He's certainly not dead... he never will be.

So, when asked to write something about him for your magazine... my first instinctive reaction was... "Why don't they ask him?"... but then I realised... even if he were still here... he would have said "Thank you, but no thank you". A very private man was our Eamonn.

I think I knew him as well as most friends over the years... and I never really knew him at all.

I can remember the first flush of What's My Line? for the BBC... we used to have a fulsome hospitality time before the 'Live' show. Eamonn would always join us for a 'noggin' before and after the show, except at Lent... he then became totally abstemious. But for the other times... if anyone wanted to discuss an event with him... he would never be drawn into expressing an opinion. I can recall many the time I would express an opinion... ask him what he thought... and receive a pat on the head for an answer. It was infuriating and I'd tell him so. "Okay", he'd say gently, "Go aheads, hit me". Which I did. As hard as I could in the solar plexus... which evoked another patient smile... Oh, he could be annoying. He could also be very funny.

I well remember one day my husband Bernie and I were walking in Knightsbridge just after lunch and saw Eamonn coming towards us. He saw us too, and took the arm of the man he was with and steered him over the road so our paths wouldn't cross. Bernie and I were very distressed to think we'd upset him... we got a call from Eamonn, full of apologies. "I had to do that, you see, I'd just had lunch with that man, and for the life of me, I couldn't remember his name."

That will never happen with Eamonn... and the next time I meet him on the street, there'll be no need for me to cross over. I will always remember his name.



When I produced the TODAY programme at Thames, I must have averaged about 10 hours a week face to face with Eamonn – stuck in a dressing room that could have been the original set for The Prisoner Cell Block H. I must stress that very little of that time went on briefing him for interviews. We got his questions down in the inevitable green ink in 10 minutes, the rest of the time given over to spinning of yarns and the telling of anecdotes. Viewers saw Eamonn as a man with a slightly off-centre smile. My memory is of a big man shaking with laughter.

Eamonn was far too good a conversationalist to be a snappy interviewer. In truth, he was not the least bit interested in the instant pundit. He knew that in three minutes you might have time to get up somebody's nose, but you could never get under their skin. He was only happy with the latter.

When Eamonn was in a studio he could have been in a boxing ring. Television and especially live television exhausted him, and yet he was addicted to the stress that it set up inside him. The daily dose of overcoming his internal panic was the flip side of a man who relaxed by penning articles for Punch or belting a golf ball.

One foreshortened life wasn't enough for Eamonn. It would have taken at least two for this complex character to make the number of very different contributions he was more than capable of offering the world. But the one life is all we have, and Eamonn packed a lot into it and made hundreds of loyal fans along the way.

When somebody you care about dies, I find you always end up retaining a single visual image of that person. In my mind's eye there's a big fella with his raincoat collar turned up, shoulders slightly hunched – the posture of a boxer. But a gentle fighter who knew how to smile at the world. And for Eamonn Andrews the world smiled back.

Eamonn Andrews

Eamonn's favourite portrait - taken on the TODAY set


Eamonn was my TV "guru". He looked after me, cossetted me, advised me in those early days at ABC TV.

It was August in 1964 that I walked through the gates at Teddington leaving the warm bosom of Fleet Street behind me to enter the unknown world of television.

The shock to the system was dramatic. Setting up World of Sport was no fun. There were rows about facilities; rows about staff; rows about content.

Lew Grade and Howard Thomas spent hours rowing about the programme itself. Lew didn't want it. Howard did.

What kind of mad world was this? Perhaps I had made a mistake. Should we head back to the comparatively sane world of the Street? Get out of the box while the exit was clear?

It was Eamonn who kept me in the business. Every Friday we would meet at noon in the lounge of his elegant home in Chiswick. We would talk through the problems. He was kindness personified, patient to the last, persuading and cajoling the frustrated young editor that you had to go through the battles to win the war.

I never knew Eamonn lose his temper. When angry, the lips curled, the voice became a touch harder but he never lost his composure.

He was a supreme broadcaster. Nervous, twitchy before the off but on camera as relaxed and homely as you would find him in the bar of his favourite golf club.

His talent extended beyond television. He was the master of radio. On the 30th anniversary of Sports Report grown men cried as he spoke his memorable closing sequence of the show.

His articles for newspapers and magazines were full of superb writing and brilliant wit. Every word one of quality. Above all, he was a great man and a great friend.

If it hadn't been for Eamonn I would not today be enjoying the sporting life of television.

That's what I owe him.

Ernie WISE

I remember watching What's My Line? with Eamonn Andrews. The amiable Irishman in the old balck and white days of TV. Everybody tuned into it in those days to see Lady Barnet, Barbara Kelly with her earrings, David Nixon and of course the firey and unpredictable Gilbert Harding. I remember thinking what a clever and intellectual show. Little did I think that I would be on the programme in the future and being clever enough to play, and sometimes getting the occupation of the person. That was how I got to know Eamonn the amiable Irishman. We had a lot in common, he was a suit and collar and tie man, like myself – you never saw him in sloppy clothes. On the show we often used to wear nearly identical suits. And, of course, when we did two shows at a time, one live, one recorded, back to back as they say, we always changed our suits and ties.

Appearing on What's My Line? was fun not work. It was a social event for us all. We met in the Hospitality Room and then at ten to seven, went down to the studio where I met Eamonn, and said "We've done it again, the suits are identical". Then we were introduced, straight on, no stopping, live. He was firmly in control and very fair. It was his baby. He would stand for no nonsense, would quash you if you got a little naughty. He always remembered it was a family show. But he loved it if you got a few big laughs. He was a family man and responsible.

After the show we all met in the Hospitality Room, we had another thing in common. We loved Havana cigars. I would bring him one, and he would bring me one. Then we both stopped smoking, and always talked about how much we missed them. I still do. I do know he was a boxer in his youth, it was always obvious on the show. If we had a sportsman or boxer on the show, he seemed to talk to them more than anybody else. The show almost came to a halt. He was sensitive about This Is Your Life. I once said "Another victim", and he turned to me and said: "No, they are not victims, we are honouring them."

What I did like him for was his respect for everybody, although he loved a good argument. I remember we went to Los Angeles together, I can see him at the airport in LA (not the best of airports) standing by the luggage carousel, smoking a cigar, oblivious to all the chaos around him, and not making any attempt to collect his luggage.

We visited Ralph Edwards home in Bel Air, he was the man who first created This Is Your Life. We stood together looking over Los Angeles at night, looking like a diamond necklace and thinking this is a rare moment.

My personal memory of him was a gentleman, a strong personality, a good religious family man. If you were in trouble – a good friend. My recent memory was when I was leaving the show, to appear in the West End, a girl appeared on the show, and Eamonn with a wicked smile, said "This is a solo for you Ernie". I guessed the girl was a stripper, but little did I know what was going to happen next.

She suddenly got up, took her clothes off down to sexy underwear and delivered a Kissogram. All arranged by Eamonn. It was a hell of a gag.

We will always remember you Eamonn, TV will be a poorer place without you. One thing I do have, thanks to modern invention, is the video copies of the show. So your smile and ambience and sense of fun will go on forever.


In 1967, nearly ex-Rediffusion and waiting for Thames to be born, Brian Tesler introduced me to Eamonn Andrews on the boat at Teddington, having suggested to me that Eamonn was the right person to introduce what would be the Thames' new daily magazine programme Today.

I instantly felt we could work together, and never regretted the decision that we should.

Eamonn Andrews undertook the heaviest workload of anyone I can ever remember working with in television. At one time, he was doing four Today shows a week and, of course, This Is Your Life also. The strain was tremendous. But, until the very end, he never let it show.

For Today, receiving instructions in an earpiece, he cheerfully interviewed live – and it is the strain of live television that kills – an endless succession of people, none of whom he had ever met before, politicians, trade unionists, industrialists, doctors, scientists and artists of various sorts. Sometimes he did not quite know how to deal with them, and incomprehension momentarily showed. I remember him being sent up rotten once by Andy Warhol, who simply did not speak...

But Eamonn was unfazed. I never ceased to wonder at his unfailing professionalism and, above all, at the way he preserved his presence for the public. He was exposed, but never over-exposed. By never over extending himself, never allowing personality to loom larger than the job he had to do, he extended his broadcasting life.

Eamonn was tenacious in any argument about his programmes and their future, but always moderate and courteous in his dealings.

I shall not forget the Irish stew he cooked for me and a colleague when we were over in Dublin for an All-Ireland Final. And I vividly remember his kindness and consideration to my wife Tamara and to myself. He lived 200 yards from us in Chiswick and came round for supper more than once. He was not used to walking in London. Afterwards, we had to show him the road home.

He asked Tamara to find a poem for him which he kept in his wallet. Years later he brought it out to show me when he and Grainne came to a concert in her memory. It is called "Adlestrop", and is by Edward Thomas. You will see how much, for him, glory was found in simple things.


Yes. I remember Adlestrop –

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop – only the name.

And willows, willow-herb and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry.

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Eamonn Andrews, Rolf Harris, Ernie Wise, Eric Sykes, Michael Aspel, Eric Morecambe and George Cole with their wives

Eamonn was always ready and willing to support Thames' publicity and promotion. This - with other top Thames staff and all their wives - was one of the most successful stunts, as well as being a happy occasion