Eamonn Remembered
RTE Guide
20 November 1987
RTE Guide: Eamonn Andrews article RTE Guide: Eamonn Andrews article
Eamonn as millions of viewers remember him Inset: With his wife Grainne
RTE Guide: Eamonn Andrews article
Eamonn Andrews makes a This Is Your Life show featuring Stephen Behan, seen here with his wife Kathleen in RTE's Studio 1 at Donnybrook
related pages...

Eamonn Andrews

a brief biography

The Legend That Was Eamonn Andrews

a celebration to mark the presenter's centenary year

Obituaries: Eamonn Andrews

Press coverage of the death and memorial service of Eamonn Andrews

Andrews's death casts doubt on his show

The Guardian reports the death of Eamonn Andrews

Stephen Behan

Bill Cotton

Val Doonican

Terry Wogan

The death of Eamonn Andrews, first Chairman of the RTE Authority, has prompted many tributes to a consummate broadcaster, and many recollections of a well-loved friend.

"It's been said many times over the past few days since Eamonn died, and it's the first thing everybody says about him – he was a good man. I know it's an old-fashioned word, but Eamonn was a true gentleman."

That was Maureen Potter, making the central point. Not indeed that you had to wait until Eamonn Andrews was dead to hear such a point made. Des Hickey remembered what some would see as a difficulty in writing a book. "When I was researching his biography I could find not one to say a harsh word about him."

And Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, remarked that "he brought style to everything he did. I valued his friendship and enjoyed his company. His great sense of humour, his warm kind personality and his gifts as a storyteller made him a most enjoyable companion to be with."

On Andrews the broadcaster, the professionals said again and again that he was the guy who showed them how. "Any of us making it over here in radio or TV" – Terry Wogan was talking from London on the night he died – "owes a great deal to Eamonn Andrews. His gentle Irish accent was one of his greatest assets."

Gay Byrne remembered the neighbour he hero-worshipped as a kid on the South Circular Road. "When he first started his broadcasting career, I knew that that was what I wanted to be, too. I wanted to be Eamonn Andrews."

Val Doonican recalled his own first big break, on Andrews' television show. "I was very excited and nervous about the show and he was just wonderful. He was established and a star, and he was so encouraging."

The gentle father-figure image came through so strongly we needed to be reminded of the unstoppable young man who battled his way to the top. The boxing analogies came in handy for that. We heard again of that amazing dilemma, the fledgling boxing commentator who also just happened to have reached the national finals on the night of the gig. Who else would have taken on the lot? This was a tough cookie on the way up.

Some saw the sports commentating as a significant influence. Bill Cotton of the BBC: "Sport has proved a valuable training ground for a number of broadcasters who have subsequently moved into a much wider range of programming. Most sports broadcasting is live. That develops quick wits and also carries with it the bonus of close contact with the public."

Cotton noted his emergence as "the first ready-made-for-TV freelance presenter. His classless Irish accent and that adroit blend of ease and timing set him apart from the Oxbridge pundits, formally trained actors and well-modulated announcers who tended to characterise the BBC's output in those days."

We needed to be reminded that his battle for cross-channel recognition was won well inside the distance. He moved to London in 1950, six years later was reckoned the highest-paid TV personality in a land which, not too long previously, hadn't been quite sure how to pronounce his name.

Secret of success? Maureen Potter: "He actually gave a damn about the people he spoke with, and that's why everybody loved him and that's how he earned his reputation as a great communicator and broadcaster."

Bill Cotton: "He was the friend of the family, welcome in everybody's parlour. There was no deception in this – only in the way that Andrews made it all look so easy. In fact, he was a consummate professional who cared about what he was doing and cared about the audience he served. Instinctively the public recognised this and that was the key to his success."

A friend in the business told Tom McGurk: "He was the first on a British television screen to talk – not down to people or at them, but to them."

Fred Cogley of RTE: "It was no wonder he achieved so much, since he had so many of the required qualities for broadcasting. He was to me the essence of the professionalism one should aspire to. It was marvellous to see someone so successful internationally on merit, when so many people feel you succeed by knowing someone rather than by your own talent."

Nearest you'll get to a clue from Eamonn himself is a comment on television as entertainment. "The great leveller has always been, and always will be, that television will always fail the day it forgets that entertainment, sad and tinselly, though it is, is the prime purpose."

He would have chuckled at the obvious closing line, picked by Martin Wainwright of the Observer. "His chief memorial will be his programmes, the style he bequeathed to successors like Terry Wogan, and that memorable catchphrase, presumably irresistible to St Peter when he unlocks the gates: This Is Your Life."

John Walsh.

John Irvine, former Head of Administration and later Deputy Director General of RTE, worked closely with Eamonn Andrews through the early years of the new station.

"His premature death breaks a link with the birth of something he played a key part in founding. In early 1960 the government appointed a four-man group to prepare the way as nucleus of an Authority. There was Commander George Crosbie of the Cork Examiner, Peter Wilkinson of Naas, E. B. McManus from Dublin – and Eamonn Andrews as Chairman. All of them are now dead."

"I thought him a splendid Chairman – of the group and of the Authority that followed. He was vigorous, and he had no 'side', as we say. There was nothing pretentious about him. Very good as a conciliator, one found."

"He played a decisive role, no doubt about that. He knew the business both from the production and the performer side. He was determined on getting first-class equipment and a nationwide network in place, despite the cost. And he was keen on flexibility of television production – he was a tremendous devolutionist."

"I came to have the highest personal and professional regard for him. I'm reminded of his coming to the GPO in 1960 – we partitioned off a little office for him there – and I think he was a bit shy and abashed at coming in. No pretension, none. The family were adopting their first child then, I remember. His death has saddened me greatly."