Lives Remembered

Shay Healy: 'You were a gem and a gentleman, witty and wise. You're stardust now twinkling down on us all'

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins said: "To have known him as a friend was a great privilege. He was loyal in his friendship and generous in its expression."

Phil Coulter called him upbeat, bohemian and a lovely guy, and tributes came too from Fr Brian D’Arcy and Daniel O’Donnell.

Shay Healy had legions of friends and admirers. He was a man of all trades and professions, a musician, writer, singer, journalist, documentary maker, talk show host - enthusiastic in everything he did, a man known as Famous Seamus, a well deserved title.

I first met this glorious man in the Ardmore Hotel in Newry over 50 years ago when Ulster Television and RTÉ met to party.

He was always the life and soul and there was something electric about his personality - he fizzled and sparked and lit up the room.

From being one of the first cameramen in the new TV station in Dublin - “We were like fighter pilots,” he said, “swooning and shooting anything that moved” - he went on to spend a career in front of camera but will forever be remembered as the man who wrote the 1980 Eurovision winner What’s Another Day.

Shay Healy was no stranger to the north. In Belfast he was a regular on BBC programmes and his wit was fast and furious.

Although in 2004 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he kept working harder than ever: “The stage is my natural home. That’s where I belong... for 40 or 50 minutes there’s no pain and the Parkinson’s goes away.”

Shay was further affected by his wife Dymphna’s death four years ago but, despite the hardships of latter years or maybe because of them, his comment on life was: “Enjoy the climb rather than the view, because sometimes the climb is more rewarding.”

Who’d have guessed that one man’s life could be crammed with so much vibrant colour.

We didn’t look ahead in those days of heady fun when we first met, it all just seemed to happen, and it happened big style for Shay Healy.

Always one to bring a smile or to make you think, he told me he had even written his own gravestone inscription: "He had an adventurous life and a lot of laughs - do not resuscitate."

Paul Tylak’s Facebook posting recalled Shay’s moving song When You Become Stardust Too: “You were a gem and a gentleman, clever, kind, witty and wise. You’re stardust now twinkling down on us all.”

Shay Healy died aged 78 on April 10. Our sympathies go to his sons Oisin and Fionain and their families.

Anne Hailes

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Lives Remembered