Friends and co-workers remember 'extraordinary' Gay Byrne

Friends and co-workers remember 'extraordinary' Gay Byrne

In a moving tribute to Gay Byrne, a former Late Late Show production assistant has described his achievements as "enormous" and "extraordinary".

Colette Kavanagh, the woman behind the catchphrase 'roll it there, Colette', said there was a pioneering sense in RTÉ when she went to work there in 1963 and it was a very exciting time when she went to work on the Late Late Show.

She said she never appreciated how important the impact of the show would be.

Speaking from her home in Santa Barbara, Ms Kavanagh said that looking back at Ireland at the time, it was extraordinary how the country had progressed.

She said she really believed the Late Late Show and Gay Byrne had a lot to do with that.

Ms Kavanagh said taboos were gently brought forward and opened up on the Late Late Show and everyone looked forward to the show each week.

She described Gay as a very "light, happy, pleasant" person to work with.

She also said it was amazing how the phrase 'roll it there, Colette' had spread.

She said there was a bar in Santa Barbara with a big framed picture of Gay Byrne on the wall, with "roll it there, Colette", written on the picture.

TV presenter Graham Norton said Gay was a huge feature in his life growing up and his own appearance on the Late Late Show felt like he had "made it".

Speaking on RTÉ's The Ryan Tubridy Show, he said: "You'd have to be some sort of quack, or in a cult with no television for him not to be part of your life.

Friends and co-workers remember 'extraordinary' Gay Byrne

"Isn't it extraordinary that even then, when we had nothing to compare him to, we seemed to understand how good he was. His quality shone through even though as an audience, we were clueless, because he was the only thing there was."

The chat show host said he wishes he was in Ireland at the moment, because while people in the UK knew of Gay Byrne, they "don't get it" in the same way.

"How lucky are we that Gay found us? He could have been doing something else, he could have been doing lots of other things.

"He found television so early and had this kind of weird instinct and understood the medium completely. Those people are so rare. There was no sense of him being a 'presenter', he just was, he was just Gay Byrne on the television."

Former RTÉ broadcaster Mike Murphy described Gay Byrne as a "once-off".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Murphy said he and Gay were great pals and he would really miss him, adding that Gay once described him as "an irritating younger brother".

He recalled first seeing Gay walking down a corridor and asking someone, "who's that" and they replied "that's Gay Byrne and he's going places".

He was a once-off, there is no doubt about it. He would never have stopped.

"He just wanted to continue and continue until he left the Late Late Show, in whatever year it was, and I remember a few years later he said to me, do you know something, I could have kept going for another few years.

"He simply loved it."

British actor Stephen Fry, whose comments on religion during an interview with Byrne sparked controversy in 2015, also paid tribute to him.

"My most notorious experience with Himself came when he dropped me a question which led to quite a hoo-ha. I fear I shocked him somewhat with my reply, but he couldn't not have been more delightful, charming and – I think – tolerantly amused by my wickedness. So here's to Himself. Who knows? Maybe he will wake up in a certain place and be able to pass on my regards."

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