These are the words of Billy Crosbie, Cork musician and friend to the late Derek Davis. His sentiment echoes the shock of a nation after the much-loved broadcaster passed away yesterday at the age of 67, after a short illness.
Since news of Davis’ death emerged, hundreds of tributes have been pouring in — though none more poignant than the ones voiced by those who knew him best.
“It’s a very, very sad day for me. He was my best friend and I’m going to miss him,” said Dick Collins, godfather to Davis’ son Sean.
“He was a great friend. If we weren’t fishing we were eating. In the last few years he was like St Paul — he converted. He lost a lot of weight and he was pestering me to do the same. He said it was wonderful to get rid of the weight.”
A few years into their 40-year long friendship, Mr Collins introduced Davis to Cheryl and Brian Byrne from Midleton. The broadcaster helped the couple set up a sea angling business.
“He said this is the place to start a fishing business in Midleton. I had a house and a boat and he kind of nudged us along to do it. From then on we became the dearest of friends.” said Mr Byrne.
“Nothing was too much trouble. Nothing he ever did was for money, he just wanted to help people out. But that was Derek. If something needed to be done, he’d do it.”
Born in Co Down, the presenter’s long and successful career in media began with American network ABC. He then worked for BBC Northern Ireland before moving to the RTÉ newsroom where he worked for 11 years.
As a newscaster, Davis was known for his witty comments after news segments — a practice that was relatively unheard of in Ireland up to that point.
From 1986, he co-hosted RTÉ One’s Live at Three with Thelma Mansfield. His former colleague said she was “utterly broken hearted” with the news of Davis’ death.
“You couldn’t say a bad word about him. He was a wonderful human being and there was much more to him than meets the eye. He was caring, kind, a good listener, always helpful and always interested,” she said.
“We worked together every day for 12 years. We were full of respect for each other.”
Following his retirement from RTÉ, Davis continued to work in media, presenting a radio programme on 4FM.
Throughout his lifetime he won two Jacob’s Awards for his television work and a dozen other local and industry awards.
In the last few years of his life, the presenter spoke openly about his battle with his weight. Last year he underwent gastric surgery and, as a result, lost more than five stone.
He had recently returned from holiday in Lanzarote and was understood to have been in good spirits up until a few days before his death.
Noel Curran, director general of RTÉ, paid tribute to the well-known personality, describing him as a “hugely popular man” both with audiences and colleagues.
“He was full of humour and warmth and was one of the most versatile presenters RTÉ has seen,” he said.
“But at heart he was always a journalist, and he brought that inquisitive sense of journalism to everything he did. From Live at Three to the Rose of Tralee, from Liveline to regional reports on the 2007 general election for Drivetime, Derek Davis’ popular approach was always rooted in that strong journalism.”
Derek Davis is survived by his wife Una and sons Michael, Colm and Sean. He will lie in repose at his home on Sunday May 17 from 2pm to 8pm. Removal will take place on Monday, May 18, to the Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome crematorium for 2pm funeral service.
Tributes to Derek Davis
Thelma Mansfield, former co-presenter on RTÉ’s Live at Three.
Billy Crosbie, musician and friend of 30 years.
Jack Walsh, former manager of Actons Hotel, Kinsale, and friend of 20 years.
Derek Davis an under-rated broadcaster, an outstanding university debater, a sublime after-dinner speaker, and a great friend. Will miss him— George Hook (@ghook) May 13, 2015
Brian and Cheryl Byrne, sea anglers in Midleton, Co Cork, and friends of Derek for 25 years.
So very sorry to hear that Derek Davis has died. A clever man, a wonderful broadcaster and a great colleague. RIP Derek.— Rachael English (@EnglishRachael) May 13, 2015
Paddy O’Brien, former contributor to Live at Three.
Very sad to hear about Derek Davis passing away. He was such a great personality and passionate supporter of all this Marine. RIP— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) May 13, 2015
Minister for Marine Simon Coveney.