This is my life... I love it
TV Times
13 October 1984
TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article
Success has brought Eamonn Andrews and his wife Grainne a palatial home in Ireland, but they still keep their equally impressive house in west London
TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article
Eamonn relaxes in the study of his Irish home (top) - and with Grainne in the lounge (centre). Eamonn with his gleaming Mercedes: 'I'm delighted to have the life I have'
TV Times: Eamonn Andrews article
This Is Your Life host Eamonn Andrews and his wife Grainne with their son Fergal, 19, and daughters Emma, 22 (left) and Niamh, 16
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Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

Bob Monkhouse

'This is my life... I love it'

By David James Smith / pictures Ron McFarlane

A still afternoon in Howth, a small picturesque village on the coast road north of Dublin. Locals loiter in the sun; four young boys, their swimming trunks rolled in towels, are meandering towards the far side of the bay for a swim.

The smells are fresh and sharp, fish and salt water, with just the merest whiff of cigar smoke to suggest anything, or anyone, out of the ordinary in little Howth.

It is enough; the boys' purpose is distracted by the familiar well dressed figure in the light grey suit, a cigar stub in his hand.

'Hey, it's 'im off the telly!' they shout. 'You Bob Monkhouse?' demands one, who clearly knows it isn't. 'Could be', comes the reply.

With the benevolence born of a fine fish lunch and an even finer cigar, Eamonn Andrews is playfully content to be cheeked. 'I can't ever see the football 'cos Mum always watches This Is Your Life,' says the bold lad.

There is a murmur of an apology lodged with the highest authority, they righteously continue across the bay – watched, perhaps wistfully, certainly with amusement, by Eamonn who once wrapped his own costume in a towel for lazy afternoon swims in Irish waters.

Over lunch, Eamonn (who returns on Wednesday in ITV's This Is Your Life) says he is not concerned with the past. He has no time for nostalgia. 'It's only because I'm such a sentimental person I can't afford to look back. I've trained myself. If I leave somewhere, I leave and that's it.'

Like so much of what he says, it may not be the complete answer. A notoriously reticent figure, he seems unwilling or unable to reveal too much. Within minutes of our meeting for lunch, with his wife, Grainne, he is explaining why he normally avoids interviews. 'It all sounds like cant.' And if the subject becomes too personal the conversation becomes faltering.

It turns out that Eamonn has been working on his memoirs for the last couple of years. He had an irresistible offer from a publisher, and he has been 'fiddling' with the idea ever since, adding a line or two that very morning. Will he be breaking the vow of privacy? A pause. 'I don't know. I suppose I'll have to try. I don't find it easy to talk about myself. I don't think anybody does.'

'Although I'm in an exposed business I feel like a private person. I don't know why. I just don't find it easy to talk. Not for any reasons of modesty I hasten to assure you, but it's a form of reticence or shyness or whatever.'

'I have a theory that most people in showbusiness are in there because of shyness, and are trying to improve it or cure it.'

One sure side-effect of reticence in public figures is the myths that arise, and attach themselves, never to be confirmed or denied. In Eamonn's case this concerns his business interests and wealth. Let's make it clear – he is not the Dublin branch of Rothchilds.

'It is a subject I've tried not to discuss. I've always been asked questions, and always told the truth. But nobody's believed it you see, and I've been credited as a millionaire, the owner of Dublin and all that.'

Nevertheless, Eamonn had long held interests outside television. Last summer he and Grainne took a two-week holiday and returned to chaos.

'From that point of view it was a disastrous year. All the things I was involved with more or less fell apart as a result of them collapsing. It was a bit painful, and other people were involved and hurt.'

'Originally, when I was working in radio, I started a little recording studio so that when I'd finished my five years in broadcasting, I'd have something to come back to. Then five years became 10 and 15 and 20, and the people I was involved with were saying, 'Why don't we do this or that?' The thing snowballed.'

'I was, variously, a small partner or a large partner, as the little studio led to a theatre, a dance hall, then a television company; and then we bought a ship and it all went wrong.'

He is vague about the actual details of the collapse. The ship has been opened as a floating nightclub in Dublin. He alludes to 'certain elements involved – including drug pushers – but you'd better not go into that'. For whatever reason, the club closed for two weeks, and re-opened to poor business. 'It was just a mistake – and one failure led to the others,' admits Eamonn.

With a year's distance, he admits to some relief. He had never made vast fortunes from the ventures. 'It was just ploughing money back into my native town. But I don't like to see it all gone. All the years of work. And the losses were very large, some on limited liability, but some were personal.'

Eamonn will be 62 in December. Crossing the threshold of 60, he says, was not significant. (He didn't even remember, add Grainne) and he is neither conscious of, nor concerned by, growing older.

'I'm concerned about my health because I live by keeping my health. I've been blessed with good health all my life, and if I lost it I wouldn't be working.'

'So I spend some time trying to keep myself fit. Not a lot of time, but I'll do a little gallop in the morning, or a work-out of some sort. I certainly don't go in for 20-mile runs. I assume that you just need to get the heart pumping and the lungs working.'

With eating and drinking he is 'cautious rather than careful' and always wary of excesses. 'I get anxious when I see the date coming up for the first show, and know I must do something about that little extra weight. The screen is a cruel judge.'

Does he plan for a future? 'Yes, I've planned a fascinating new series of This Is Your Life and another series of What's My Line in 1985.' Another pause. Laughter. We both know this was not the question.

'There are all sorts of things I dream of, like writing a couple of plays or novels. Then I go and play golf instead. Do I ever stop wanting to appear on television? I don't know. I don't think along those lines. I've signed a new contract with Thames Television for three years after 1985, and I think about fulfilling that.'

Does he need to carry on working? 'Well, if you've got a wife and three children to support... No, seriously, I would need the stimulus of work. I'd get very bored not working. I don't even see it as work, I'm just very lucky doing something I enjoy.'

This Is Your Life is more than 30 years old, and it doesn't take a seer to predict that the new series will top the ratings. 'It is a tingle every time,' says Eamonn with unashamed, unabated enthusiasm. 'It would be ridiculous to say there haven't been times when a subject didn't excite me or I wasn't as enthusiastic. But I can't think of them. By and large I'm excited every week.'

If he is proud of his career he will not reveal it. 'I never think in those terms, and I don't think anything you do is just for yourself anyway. I'm proud to have survived as a family and in marriage. I'm proud of that in so far as I've contributed to it. But if I'm examined then I'd probably think I'd contributed less than my wife and children.'

'I'm just delighted to have had the life I've had... to have the life I have. Then to have been born in an age when there was television. This tends to sound flip, but I could never have believed I'd be on radio let alone television. I think it's magic. Suddenly there I am. A famous person, or a personality or whatever the word is. Can you imagine? I wish my dad was still alive. But for what? Just to laugh at it, not to be proud of it.'

'It's ridiculous really. All those thoughts come into your head now and then.'

With Eamonn at the wheel of his magnificent Mercedes, cigar in hand, we go back to the Andrews home in Portmarnock. They have another in West London, but Dublin is clearly first base. We see the swimming pool, the natural rock waterfall, the extraordinary house like a Moorish palace with brilliant white exterior and interior.

Grainne points out the allotment and reveals that Eamonn is a terrible gardener. Eamonn poses for the photographer, but baulks at pictures by the pool. 'I don't want to give the impression we live in some Hollywood-style place – the Dublin Riveria.' To be frank, it is difficult to avoid this impression. He allows the pictures to be taken anyway.

There is no sign of their three adopted children, Emma, 22, Fergal, 19, and Niamh, 16. Fergal's electric guitar is slumped in a back room and his paintings adorn the walls. Eamonn Andrews points them out, one after the other...

Not proud? Don't you believe it.