FUNNY HOW EAMONN WAS A FAMILIAR FACE on British television for some 30 years or so, yet he didn’t seem to leave much of a legacy – most people seem to have more or less forgotten he even existed. But he started off on Irish radio in the 1940s, when he wrote to them at the age of 19 to ask them if he could be a boxing commentator. They said yes and he became a star in Ireland before moving over to the Beeb in the 1950s. There he was given WHAT’S MY LINE and then THIS IS YOUR LIFE to front – famously being the subject of the first ever ‘Life. Both were massive at the time (once Bob Monkhouse appeared on What’s My Line with an eyepatch, and the papers went nuts, for some reason). He also did CRACKERJACK, of course, and always seemed pissed off with the kids – and all this while running RTE. Both of his peak-time shows were axed in the early 60s, and a pissed-off Eamonn went to ITV, where they invented WORLD OF SPORT for him, as well as a late night chat show which, by all accounts, he was crap at; Eamonn started his interview with Muhammad Ali by talking about why he’d changed his name from Cassius Clay, and then referred to him as “Cassius” all the way through.
In 1969 ITV revived This is Your Life. Roy Bottomley seriously wanted to call the new series This Is Your Colourful Life to emphasise the new version’s big difference, but thankfully good sense prevailed. When What’s My Line came back in the early 1980s, Eamonn was then doing more or less exactly the same stuff he’d been doing thirty years beforehand. Indeed, the new What’s My Line was broadcast live, seemingly just because that’s how they used to do it in the ’50s. Well, yeah, but by that logic they may as well have filmed it in black and white as well. Both series seemed to be on every week forever, with Eamonn bantering non-stop with George Gale, Barbara Kelly, Jilly Cooper and Ernie Wise. All the bloody time. Eamonn died suddenly in 1987, with both the shows continuing under new presenters (obviously, as a Thames production, Penelope Keith took over What’s My Line). Since then he seems to have been more or less forgotten. In a way, Eamonn was the Carol Smillie of his day – always there, but not really registering.