Gloria Hunniford, who is best known these days for being a panelist on Loose Women, is to be given the freedom of the borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon.
A PROPOSAL that Portadown-born-and-bred UK-wide television and radio broadcast personality, Gloria Hunniford, be awarded the Freedom of the Borough has been accepted.
The proposer at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council's December 20 meeting was Councillor Margaret Tinsley.
It read: “That this Council confers the Freedom of the Borough of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon to Mrs Gloria Hunniford OBE in recognition of her outstanding television and radio broadcasting achievements and contribution to cancer charities and services.
“This conferment is also to recognise that Gloria is an excellent ambassador and advocate for this area.”
The proposal, which was seconded by Alderman Sidney Anderson, went through unopposed and afterwards Cllr Tinsley told the Gazette, “It went through council unanimously, which meant no vote was required.
In presenting her justification for the proposal, Cllr Tinsley informed her fellow-councillors of Gloria Hunniford's outstanding work, achievements and reputation at national level.
She began by saying, “For many years I have followed the career of this inspirational lady.
“Born in a terraced house on the Armagh Road in Portadown, Gloria attended Church Street Primary School, before moving on to Portadown College, which she attended with Dame Mary Peters - another outstanding lady of achievement and now a Freeman of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.
“Gloria grew up in what she described as having been a loving home. As well as working in the local newspaper, her father was an entertainer – a part-time magician – so when she was a child, she went to venues with her dad and that sparked her love of entertainment.
“As a child she was a great singer, who appeared many times in Saturday night shows in Portadown Town Hall. When she went on to Portadown College she sang in the school choir. But when she turned 17, she had the opportunity to go with a family member to Canada and this enhanced her singing career on radio.
“When she returned to NI, she saw an advert for a production assistant in Ulster Television. She applied, was successful and was offered the post.
“Her future husband was a cameraman on this show and she married him. They had three beautiful children – and she still continued to sing at night.”
Gloria made a record which went to Number 7 and when she was invited to discuss this on a BBC radio programme, during which the producer interviewed her and then offered her a job as a radio broadcaster - a remarkable achievement in a male-dominated environment.
Cllr Tinsley's citation continued, “Television expanded and Gloria continued to do radio during the day – plus television when the opportunities arose - reporting on many horrendous events of the Troubles.
“UTV were expanding their news programme and wanted to broadcast on events outside of the Troubles. When the Head of Programmes contacted Gloria, she made the move to where I remember her best, namely presenting 'Good Evening Ulster' and interviewing many famous celebrities.
“She once said that everything she does stems from what she learnt in NI which gave her a great grounding for her future career on the GB mainland.
“On an occasion when she was in England, she called into BBC Radio 2 for a cuppa and a chat with the radio controller. Within a year she was presenting the noon-to-2pm slot. What an achievement!”
Cllr Tinsley continued to present her case by telling Council, “She left NI for London with her family, with utter determination and self-belief. Her radio show was highly successful and during that time she was asked to do a chat show called 'Sunday Sunday'. On that she interviewed – or, in true NI form, 'had a wee chat with' - many Hollywood actors including James Stewart, Arduery Hepburn and Doris Day.
“Even though Gloria had tremendous career success, being a mum to her two sons, Michael and Paul, and daughter Caron was always her priority. They, too, went on to have very successful careers.”
Cllr Tinsley recalled a niece of Gloria's, with whom she was friendly, “telling me what it was like to be on the Blue Peter set where Caron was presenting. I can't deny having been very envious.”
Cllr Tinsley went on, “Like most mothers, Gloria closeness to and love for her daughter was indescribable.
“Caron was so beautiful. In the days before Instagram and things like that I remember buying Hello magazine every week and Caron featured regularly with any number of articles on her career, her wedding and the birth of her two sons.
“Following the birth of her second son, Caron found a lump on her breast and was given the diagnosis of breast cancer. Tragically, she passed away at the age of 41.
“It was so sad, and many years later, I too lost three friends between the ages of 39 and 41 to the same illness.
“Gloria was heartbroken and as a mother you wonder how you will come through this.
But although heartbroken, Gloria wanted to do something positive in memory of Caron and to help others.
“So she set up a charity - the Caron Keating Foundation - which has made a considerable difference to many individuals and families affected by and dealing with cancer.”
Cllr Tinsley told Council, “Back in 2008, the NI charity for Children with Cancer was the first in the UK to receive a grant from the Caron Keating Foundation - £20,000 towards the building of a new log cabin at Shimna Valley in Newcastle.
“This cabin, for up to 16 teenagers as a place to stay during their illness. This facility was in addition to the holiday homes already there, accommodating children with cancer and their families.
“Those responsible said they were honoured that Gloria had chosen a charity from home to be the first recipient of an award from Caron Keating Foundation.”
Further underlining her endorseemt, Cllr Tinsley added, “At Hillsborough Castle, in 2006, Gloria officially launched the Action Cancer Big Bus which delivers free life-saving breast screening and health checks across NI - and I personally know of individuals who would not have gone to the doctor, but whose lives have been saved because they went a for check-up on that bus.
“Back in 2017, Gloria was named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list and was awarded the OBE for services to cancer and cancer charities.
“Recently Gloria said she never wants to retire. She is still blessed with good health, leads a very active life and enjoys an on-going career in television, which includes her being a regular panelist on 'Loose Women' and presenting on 'Rip-off Britain'.
“One of her close broadcasting colleagues recently said that Gloria is the best broadcaster NI has ever produced and how proud they are of everything she has achieved,” Cllr Tinsley added.
After a citation like that, it was hardly surprising that the proposal went through without a word of dissent.
And responding to the news, Gloria said, “Words cannot describe how thrilled and surprised I was to hear about this wonderful accolade.
“I was born and brought up in Portadown and my life revolved around the entire borough. No matter where I am in the world I always think of that whole area so fondly and proudly as my home.
“I would like to send enormous thanks to all of those who so kindly sanctioned this great honour which I will always treasure.”