Dubliner Shay Healy was a man of many parts – and beloved by all because he was a genuine likeable guy with no airs and graces.
The Sandymount native always had an eye for the photo lens and thus started out on his professional career as a trainee cameraman in RTE alongisde John McColgan, later of Riverdance fame.
Shay was a performer, songwriter, broadcaster and playwright among many different walks he chose to take from time to time in his action-packed life.
Arguably his greatest legacy is the example he gave in fighting Parkinson’s Diseasee for 17 years up to his death at the age of 78 last week.
However music was in his blood whether it was presenting programmes or starring in light entertainment shows.
While he will be primarily remembered for writing ‘What’s Another Year’ which Johnny Logan sang to runaway Eurovision success in 1980, he also had an outstanding broadcasting career with the late night talkshow ‘Nighthawks’ which was groundbreaking in its time.
Indeed, it also provided him with an exclusive news story which led to the resignation of a taoiseach. This occurred when he interviewed former Justice Minister, Sean Doherty, about phone tapping – the ramifications of this conversation forced Charlie Haughey to resign in 1982 when previous unknown facts about his role in the controversey were brought to light by the former Roscommon deputy.
The show was a charming mix of serious talks mingled with entertainment and was compulsive viewing. Shay received an IFTA award for his outstanding contribution to Television in 2018.
As the years went by, he branched out into business by founding his own production company.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, but continued working and performing.
He and his wife Dymphna, who predeceased him in 2017, had two sons.
News of his death led to scores of tributes – among them President Michael D Higgins and Taoiseach Michael Martin.
The President said: “Shay’s talents extended across so many areas and continued, even when challenged by illness, into the modern decades. His approach to everything he did was original and conveyed with enthusiasm.”
On radio, Johnny Logan spoke tearfully of finding Shay’s death “hard to take.”
“He told me that he had a song, and wanted me to perform it at the Eurovision. That is how the story of What’s Another Year began,” the singer explained. Johnny said the sentiments meant more to him when Shay told him it centred on his father’s grief in trying to get over the death of his mother.
“That was very useful to know when it came to performing it,” he added.
Riverdance producer John McColgan recalled how both had served their time as cameramen, adding: “We’ve never really been apart for the last 50 years. I was immensely fond of him. He was incredibly talented.”