Reliving the Ryan Line underlined what talent we lost

Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It’s always a stupid thing to say when someone is dead – but Gerry Ryan was one of those people who was larger than life. And hearing his voice again on the airwaves last week, as 2FM marked 40 years of broadcasting, brought both goose pimples and the realisation of a great talent lost far too soon. With the exception of the Gay Byrne Hour, the Ryan Line dominated Irish radio for a decade like no programme before or since – and just like Gaybo, the trick was that Gerry Ryan knew how to get the nation talking.

To mark 2FM’s anniversary, his old friends put together an hour of radio with his voice, splicing together bits from twelve years of the show before his death at the age of just 53 in 2010 to turn it into a little gem that had you completely believing that he was back from the grave.

You can still check it out on RTÉ’s website – one hour of the Ryan Line back on the radio to mark the big birthday of a station that he was such a part of, and where he was and will probably always be the biggest star.

And while it was clever, entertaining and heartbreakingly sad, what it showed most of all is how we miss him – how we’ve never replaced him for his merriment, his irreverence but then, also, his innate ability to move seemly from hilarity to empathy. . . to be the shoulder to cry on, the one who had your back, who spoke for the silenced.

He was a one-off for whom nothing was off limits; he lit up the airwaves because he just loved what he did – until towards the finish, when he probably didn’t. And yet that shouldn’t overshadow a pioneer of Irish radio.

He could wax on about his family; a night out on the lash, a few pints, a movie he saw, a fella he met – and he painted pictures with words that allowed you to enter his world, even if his world was completely and utterly parallel to yours.

Nothing was off limits – and that’s why everyone felt they knew him. And why most of them loved him.

To read the rest of this column, see this week’s Tribune

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