The family of the late entertainer, comedian and actor Brendan Grace have credited broadcasting legend Gay Byrne with launching his career.
Mr Byrne passed away at his home surrounded by his wife Kathleen, daughters Crona and Suzy in Howth, Co Dublin on Monday following a long battle with illness at the age of 85.
The Dubliner’s broadcasting career on radio and television spanned more than 60 years making him the biggest name in Ireland. His career highs included being the first host of The Late Late Show. The programme became the world’s longest running chat show.
Grace succumbed to lung cancer on July 11 last aged 68. His family, on their official Facebook page, Remembering Brendan Grace, said: “Brendan had the utmost admiration and respect for Gay Byrne, the man whom he credits with having launched his career.
“Brendan's family would like to offer their deepest sympathies and condolences to dear Kathleen, Crona, Suzy and their families, on this sad day.”
Scores of people reacted to the post with one fan commenting: “Two of Irelands greatest treasures, and a part of Ireland’s olden days gone but not forgotten..rip to Brendan and now Gay..say there will be a sing song and chat in heaven tonight..sad to see them passing away.”
Another added: “Two great men in the one year. Sadly missed. Never forgotten. It's another very sad day, losing another legend but can you imagine the fun and banter they are having now in a beautiful place, out of their pain and remember ( they only went ahead of us).
“Aren't we all blessed to have lived a life with these amazing people in it. The upcoming generation will never get the likes of these people again.”
Meanwhile, popular author and broadcaster Gareth O’Callaghan also revealed that his career was hugely influenced by the late RTÉ legend and that he was a man he thought “could never die.”
“I have often wondered over these past few years what direction his career might have taken back in the 90s if I hadn't worked with and got to know Gay Byrne.
“And I finally felt that very real sadness so many of us had been dreading in recent days and weeks, after reading the news story on my phone that Gay Byrne had passed away following a long illness.
“There is an emptiness….that leaves this country feeling lost and stunned. It's like a huge plunge in life's vital energy system. Everything seems to have slowed down and lost its direction.
“There are certain individuals all through your life who you always believe could never die. Gay Byrne was one of that rare breed.”
The father of three, is also living with an incurable disease, and left his role in Classic Hits FM on September 1, last year after receiving a diagnosis of Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), a neurodegenerative illness - a rare life-changing and incurable disease.
The progressive disease results in a loss of function and death of different types of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Around 3,000 people in Ireland and the UK have been diagnosed with it.
The 58-year-old, who got to know him while being a producer and part-time presenter on Byrne’s RTÉ Radio One Morning Show in the 1990s added: "We were all quietly hoping that he might make it back on air for one last season, despite knowing that he was very unwell, that such a return was so unlikely.
"So many of us wishing him well; so many of us willing him on just so we might hear his comforting voice again, a voice that will forever remain timeless.
“He was fearless towards anyone who thought they could lie to him, or treat him like some sort of court jester simply because they were a bishop or a politician, or whatever title they tried to hide behind.
“But then there was the empathic side of Gay Byrne that reminded us again and again just what precisely made him so special and so important in each of our lives.
“He was the fearless voice for so long of so many who didn't have a voice, who weren't allowed to speak, who were terrified of the consequences of what might happen if they were heard speaking out. He encouraged us to open our eyes, when others told us to keep them shut.”
O’Callaghan explained that all these years later he is still mindful of how powerful and lasting Byrne’s influence was.
“Not only on those who had the rare opportunity to spend time working with him and getting to know him, but also on all those people he never met whose lives he enriched every morning by reaching out to them in their kitchens or on their car radios somewhere in Ireland.
“When I think of Gay Byrne…I also think of Kathleen, Crona and Suzy, and how much they will miss him. But if it's even the tiniest of consolations for those unexpected moments, please know that he will be missed as much as he was loved, and so much more, by so many of us.
“In the words of John Cena (actor), ‘You know someone is very special to you when days just don't seem right without them.’
“As one of his many favourite singers, Shirley Bassey, (said) Thank You for the Years.
“Thank you Gay. We will miss you.”