ITV journalist Gary Burgess died peacefully at Jersey Hospice yesterday afternoon (1 January) after a long-documented journey with cancer.
He had received a terminal diagnosis last year, after doctors said that tumours found on his lungs were inoperable.
In a final message, written for release after his death, Gary wrote:
“I’ve had the best life. I’ve had the luckiest life. I met my soul mate and the love of my life who went on to become my husband. I got to work with some of the most amazing people in newsrooms and studios doing the job I absolutely adore. And I’ve been able to share my own relatively short time on this planet surrounded by friends and loved ones who have enriched my life in ways they may never truly understand.
My greatest sadness is the prospect of leaving all of that and all of them behind. The thought of doing that to Alan is unfathomable to process, but I also know the very people who’ve shown me love and support will now wrap up those feelings around him in the coming days. It’s time for me to hand over my microphone and keyboard for others to do the talking about me, so let my final words simply be ‘thank you’. Every person in my life has, in their own way, helped me live my best life. That’ll do.”
Politicians from across the Channel Islands have paid tribute to Gary, who also worked at Island FM, BBC Guernsey, Channel 103 and the Jersey Evening Post throughout his long career.
Gary has always been across the news in a really deep and meaningful way. His contacts are second to none. It was amazing to see how he would have been contacted by so many people and have the inside track. But it’s a good thing that someone has done their research and asks the challenging questions. That’s the whole point.Senator Kristina Moore, Chair of Jersey’s Scrutiny Liaison Committee
Born in Manchester in November 1975, Gary and his family moved to South Africa when he was just six years old.
Friends say that witnessing the institutionalised inequality of Apartheid at such a young age may have cemented his desire to question the status quo and stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves.
After returning to the UK for secondary school, Gary landed his first job at Radio Wave in Blackpool in 1992.
Starting as a teaboy, he left nine years later having been a newsreader, breakfast show presenter and programme controller.
While there, he set a world record for the longest radio show – staying on air for 76 hours to raise money to build a new £2.9m cancer unit in Blackpool.
He went on to manage radio stations across England and Scotland before coming to Guernsey at Island FM in 2003, where he won national awards for the station’s output and commercial success.
Colleagues remember his immediate fondness for the island.
He always said when he got off the boat and saw that beautiful view of St Peter Port harbour that he knew he would fit in here, that island life was for him. He loved the community, the warmth about it all. Every single event, the roadshows we did, even car boot sales, he would go along to speak to people and find out how Guernsey ticked.Carl Ward, Presenter, Island FM
Three years as breakfast show presenter at BBC Radio Guernsey followed, before Gary moved to ITV Channel TV in 2011 as a Guernsey reporter.
He moved to Jersey in 2012. As one of Channel’s chief reporters, Gary covered everything from the most technical political rows to the sensitivities of the Jersey Care Inquiry.
In 2021 he was nominated as journalist of the year at the prestigious Royal Television Awards.
Karen Rankine, Head of News at ITV Channel TV, described Gary as an extraordinarily talented and passionate journalist and broadcaster.
He had a huge heart and his journalism has had an enormous impact across the Channel Islands. He leaves an enduring legacy, not just through the stories he told, the people he touched and the friendships he built, but for many journalists, he was an inspirational role model and mentor who helped shape so many careers.Karen Rankine, Head of News, ITV Channel TV
Adding: “As colleagues and friends we will miss this remarkable man who has inspired so many of us in so many ways and our thoughts and prayers are with Gary’s husband Alan and his family.”
In August 2021 Gary was awarded the rarely-presented prestigious Silver Seal, by Jersey’s Bailiff, recognising his contribution to journalism over a number of years.
Gary was also named Community Champion of the Year at the Jersey Evening Post’s Pride of Jersey Awards.
A testicular cancer diagnosis in 1999 was successfully treated with surgery and chemotherapy but, very unusually, relapsed in 2014 and 2016 having spread to Gary’s lungs.
Surgery was successful but a further relapse and salvage chemotherapy in November 2019 wasn’t successful.
Gary was diagnosed with terminal cancer in November 2020 and was given a life expectancy of six to 12 months, hence his eventual retirement from ITV in August 2021.
In a widely read blog post, written the day after he was told the news, Gary said: “Hearing you’re going to die is odd. It’s a strange other worldly experience, to think there may only be one more birthday, one more Christmas, one more wedding anniversary. I’m not dying. I’m living. It’s just that I’ve got less of it to do so my obligation is to make it matter more.”
Gary and his husband Alan, who met in 2014, held their civil partnership in March 2018 and were first to convert to a marriage when the law changed in July that year. Their marriage certificate is number one on the conversion register.
He has one brother who lives in Madrid with his wife and two children. Gary’s dad lives in north Wales.