Dear Gay is a major new documentary for RTÉ One, which aims to tell some of the myriad stories behind the tens of thousands of letters that were written to Gay over his 60 years in broadcasting.
Together those letters tell the story of a unique relationship which developed between Gay Byrne and his viewers and listeners. And we need your help in finding their authors. If you, or someone you know, wrote to Gay over those decades, and have a moving, surprising or funny story to tell about why you were inspired to write or what effect your letter had, we want to hear from you.
There are few public figures in Ireland who have done more to shape modern Ireland than Gay Byrne. A conservative man and lifelong Catholic, Gaybo was an unlikely revolutionary, but his work on radio and television over six decades uncovered injustices, challenged taboos and brought many hitherto untold stories to the nation, often causing controversy and always igniting debate. Many have argued that his broadcasting work during that period was a catalyst for national change, gradually chipping away at age-old norms and ushering in a new, more tolerant Ireland. Others, including Gay himself, claimed he simply rode those tides and brought changes that were happening anyway into the public sphere.
For many, that societal change happened at an individual level, and RTÉ's archives are bursting with boxes of letters from members of the public, who wrote to Gay to tell their stories, to complain, to seek help, share information and advice, or simply to publicise their invention, band, business or cause. Their stories are often funny and touching and many tell a tale of a more innocent Ireland. But there are many letters, too, that detail immense personal challenges, poverty and marginalisation.
We know from the archives that there were listeners in the early days for whom the Gay Byrne Radio Show was almost like a community noticeboard, where they sourced everything from prams to snooker tables; washing machine parts to rare books.
We know that there were people reunited after emigration and adoption as a result of letters to the radio show. People wrote letters to Gay sharing personal stories which they sometimes couldn’t even tell their best friends and family members, which lifted the lid on subjects such as domestic abuse, depression, alcoholism, divorce, abortion, forced adoptions, homosexuality, clerical and institutional abuse and more.
Dear Gay is a new documentary for RTÉ One which aims to tell some of the stories behind those letters. And we need your help!
If you, or someone you know, wrote to Gay’ radio or television show over those decades, and you have an interesting story to tell, we want to hear from you.
You, or someone you know, may have received critical financial support from the Gay Byrne Show Radio Fund; you may have been moved by an item on the show to share your own experiences; you, or someone you know, may have been one of the thousands who wrote to the radio show after the tragic death of Ann Lovett and her baby son in 1984 to tell your own story; you, or a loved one, may have been one of those who came out to Gay, anonymously, or spoke about your gay child, after he tackled the taboo of homosexuality. You may have appeared on the Late Late Show, campaigned to be a child reviewer or performer on the Toy Show, been nominated for a Gay Byrne Show Local Hero Award or Calor Kosangas Housewife of the Year and be willing to tell us how that experience changed your life.
Whatever the reason for writing to Gay during his time in RTÉ, if you have an interesting story to tell and would like to take part in the project, simply fill in the form below.
The documentary will air on RTÉ One later this year. We look forward to reading your stories!