According to The Dictionary of Irish Biography introduction:
The Dictionary of Irish Biography (DIB) is a project of the Royal Irish Academy. It tells the island’s life story through the biographies, at home and overseas, of prominent men and women born in Ireland, north and south, and the noteworthy Irish careers of those born outside Ireland.The Dictionary of Irish Biography
Good Company Indeed…
In the same DIB introduction at https://www.dib.ie/about, Seamus Heaney adds that:
…the RIA’s Dictionary of Irish Biography is an epoch-making event in the history of Irish scholarship. It changes the state of knowledge in the twenty-first century as decidedly as the Ordnance Survey did in the nineteenth…Seamus Heaney, Dictionary of Irish Biography
Well, you can imagine how chuffed we were when Dr. Niav Gallagher, Editorial Support Officer from the Dictionary of Irish Biography reached out to us, Gerry’s family. She was looking for our input in compiling an entry for Gerry. It was more than exciting, and also particularly humbling.
While we know and appreciate the contribution Gerry made over the years to Northern Irish life. It is quite another thing to be offered the opportunity to have his biography catalogued amongst the 11,000 men and women from the Island who have had their significant contributions immortalised. No pressure, of course – but now was the time to get it right for posterity!
Knitting it all together
Niav kindly put together and provided a loose draft of the information she had been able to find in the public domain. On reading it, we could see that there were holes to be filled, corrections to be made and plenty of detail to be supplied… And we know where the devil dwells – in that same detail!
And so the real work began. For me, it was an eye-opener to take that journey back in living memory. Most people, I’m sure, have a good idea of who their people were, their descendants, and what they did, when they lived and who they married. However, when you get into details like the order in which the children arrived, who left on what boat to go where, and whether your grandfather was a boiler man or a range fireplace fitter, the haze comes down. And that’s when we called in the professionals.
Fact and fiction
Gerry’s brother Charlie is sadly no longer with us, but his brother Johnny, and his sister Kathleen McBride were ready and able to supply the details with great clarity. What the house in Sackville Street was like, the lodgers, who lived nearby. Why Gerry opted to attend the Christian Brothers and not the local grammar school, who the “heads” were, the dancehalls. We walked through Shandrum, and learned how and why his mother’s homeplace in Donegal was so deeply formational for Gerry. The time Toejam was supported by an unknown band called U2…
We explored Gerry’s chance arrival and subsequent blossoming career at Radio Foyle and BBC NI, then his move to Anderson Country on BBC Radio 4 and how that affected him, even as he returned to huge success in Northern Ireland, both on screen and on radio.
The Final Draft for the Dictionary of Irish Biography
There was much to talk about, many questions to answer, and drafts to review and return. It’s been a year since we worked with Niav Gallagher, the editor responsible for the final text, and it was all wonderfully worth the effort – our thanks to her, and to all involved. We think we got it right in the end and we’re all delighted with the finished product; get yourself a cup of tea and read it here for yourself:
Terry Wogan’s in there now, and so many others. Do make time for a browse through the DIB website. You might be surprised who you come across!