1934 - 2019

Gay Byrne:
A Life in Pictures

Gay Byrne had a profound effect on the cultural and social development of Ireland in the course of his long tenure as Ireland’s most successful broadcaster. Here are some of the key moments in his life and career.


Gay Byrne was born on August 5, 1934 and grew up in Rialto on the southside of Dublin, before moving to the South Circular Road, Dublin, in 1944. He attended Rialto National School and then Synge Street CBS.


After showing an early interest in jazz music and becoming inspired by Eamonn Andrews, Gay began working as a broadcaster in 1958 on Radio Éireann, presenting a 15-minute slot dedicated to jazz on Monday nights. He also worked for Granada Television and the BBC in England.


On July 6th 1961, he began hosting the Late Late Show, which went on to become a barometer for social and sometimes political change in a rapidly developing Ireland. He would present the show until he stepped down from the role in 1999.


Gay married Kathleen Watkins, formerly a well-known harpist, in the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saggart, in 1964. The couple had two daughters, Suzy and Crona.


In 1973, the hugely-popular Gay Byrne Hour began to air on RTÉ Radio 1. It ran until 1998 and remained one of the most listened to radio shows in the country. He is pictured here on his last day on the show.


Proud father Gay kisses his daughter Suzy (12) as she makes her Confirmation in May 1985, while sister Crona (15) and Kathleen look on.

Rose of Tralee

Gay hosted the Rose of Tralee for seventeen years.


One of the most celebrated and fondly-remembered editions of the Late Late was given over to The Dubliners in 1987 to mark the band’s 25th anniversary. The then-Taoiseach Charlie Haughey rocked up to RTÉ to grab some of the reflected glory.


In 1988, Byrne was awarded an honorary doctorate in letters from Trinity College, Dublin.


A bust of Gay was unveiled outside the RTÉ radio centre in September 1999 to mark his work for the broadcaster and his contribution to Irish life.


When Gay stepped down from the Late Late in June 1999 he was presented with a Harley-Davidson by Bono and Larry Mullen Jr of U2, a band who the Late Late had featured on the show from almost the very start of their career.


However, Gay wasn’t off the airwaves for long. He returned with his own hugely popular music show on Lyric fm and in 2009, The Meaning of Life with Gay Byrne began on RTÉ television in which he interviewed public figures about their faith or lack thereof.


Gay made one of his last public appearances in 2018 to unveil a plaque dedicated to The Beatles outside the site of their one and only gig at Adelphi cinema on Abbey Street, Dublin.