He joined RTÉ when broadcasts were in black and white but Bunny Carr went on to produce TV gold.
The 91-year-old former presenter and communications consultant, who died on Wednesday, fronted the quiz show Quicksilver for 16 years, inventing the catchphrase ‘stop the lights’ that entered common usage far beyond the confines of the Donnybrook studios and years beyond the generation who first heard it.
Contestants in the first programmes in 1965 started out with old pennies and shillings on the board and, even in the final shows in post-decimalisation 1981, they could rarely dream of taking home more than a couple of hundred pounds.
But watching the weekly show — and participating from the sofa — became a family institution in the Ireland of single-channel days, and reminiscences and tributes were plentiful as news of its iconic host’s death broke early yesterday.
RTÉ released clips from the station archives showing him in action, and current and former broadcasters expressed their sorrow on the loss of a man whom sports presenter Des Cahill described as a “hugely popular” professional.
Social media, meanwhile, was bustling with debates on subjects such as whether the story that one contestant, when asked Ghandi’s first name, replied ‘goosey goosey’ was true or just an urban legend.
Bunny, christened Bernard but handed an unshakeable nickname by a nun at school who compared his sizeable ears to that of a rabbit, was a native of Clontarf, Dublin, and worked as a clerk in Bank of Ireland after leaving school.
He didn’t enjoy the job, though, and spoke later of how he remembered his beloved father being stuck in a detested job and counting down the days to his pension, only to pass away before he ever got to retire.
That feeling, a love of amateur dramatics, and the buzz surrounding the fledgeling state broadcaster prompted Bunny to pester RTÉ bosses for an audition and he got a spot doing advertising voice-overs before going on to presenting shows such as Quicksilver, the award-winning Teen Talk, The Politicians, and Going Strong, many of which he devised himself.
He was juggling the bank and broadcasting when his physiotherapist wife, Joan, was struck with polio while pregnant with their third child. She spent a lengthy period in hospital and subsequently had to use a wheelchair but she remained independent and active and Bunny’s adored anchorwoman until her death in 2005.
For a while, Bunny devoted himself full-time to RTÉ but then branched out into media training, firstly coaching members of the clergy on how to handle television and radio interviews before setting up Carr Communications, which is now one of the country’s largest companies in the executive coaching and public relations field.
Our founder, former Chairman, colleague, mentor and great friend.
extends our deepest sympathy to his family, friends and all the people whose lives he touched.
He will be sadly missed. pic.twitter.com/Fe7Pbk7gC2— Carr Communications (@CarrCommsLtd) September 20, 2018
Bunny was one of the first to see the need for politicians and business chiefs to be able to perform well in the media, survive on-air grillings and answer questions coherently, and at least six taoisigh and many government ministers passed through his hands, although he would be first to concede that his success with the likes of Charles Haughey and Padraig Flynn was mixed.
He left RTÉ in the mid-1980s to concentrate full-time on the company and worked there until his retirement 20 years later, despite having a heart attack and cancer in that time.
Paying tribute to him, Irish Examiner columnist Terry Prone, who worked alongside him in the company for many years, described him as a pioneer in the field.
Carr management described him as “founder, former chairman, colleague, mentor, and great friend”.
Bunny is survived by his three children, Carolyn, Alan, and Phylo, 11 grandchildren and a wide circle of family and friends.
He will be buried in St Fintan’s Cemetery overlooking the sea in his adopted Sutton tomorrow after 10am Mass.