“It was just so nice and so essentially Irish.” Kathleen Watkins thanks nation for messages following Gay Byrne’s passing 2 weeks ago

“It was just so nice and so essentially Irish.” Kathleen Watkins thanks nation for messages following Gay Byrne’s passing

“We knew that Gay was popular and loved but we didn’t know how much... we do now."

Kathleen Watkins, the widow of the late Gay Byrne, issued a heartfelt message of thanks to “the entire nation” for messages, letters, cards, notes and Mass cards received by her family following the passing of the beloved broadcaster last year.

Speaking to Ryan Tubridy on the Late Late Show on Friday night, Watkins said: "They are from the four corners of Ireland and beyond. We knew that Gay was popular and loved but we didn’t know how much, but we do now."

"All during the three years he was so ill people would stop me on the street, men and women, saying tell him we love him,” Watkins added.

“It was just so nice and so essentially Irish and warm and genuine and real and sincere. Everything about it was just beautiful."

In the interview, Watkins revealed to Tubridy that she has been hospitalised a number of times since the death of her husband last year but that she is feeling “good” at the moment.

"I am feeling fine. I have my moments. I have had some moments in the last month but I am doing well only with the help of family and friends. They have been absolutely wonderful. I count my blessings all the time," Watkins said.

Clip via The Late Late Show

Speaking about Gay’s last days before his death, Watkins said that they angled his bed so that he could have a view of the lighthouse near their home in Howth. After his funeral, she said it was seven months before she felt comfortable watching a recording of it.

"I wouldn’t have been able [to watch it],” she said.

“You go through different stages. I remember somebody saying to me only a few days after Gay died: ‘Do you miss Gay?’ It was an awful thing to say to somebody because really you don’t know somebody is really gone yet, you just don’t.

“I remember a woman whose son was killed in the Omagh bombing, I remember her talking about him and she was saying 'he is just gone, he’s gone' and the word 'gone' stuck in my mind. That is what happens. You don’t realise the person is gone yet.”

Ahead of the Late Late Toy Show next month, Watkins has also donated one of Gay's infamous Toy Show jumpers in a bid to raise money for homeless charities this winter, having been inspired to do after experiencing the homelessness problem first-hand on a recent walk through Dublin city centre.

Taken by surprise by the offer, Ryan Tubridy promised that the jumper would be used in a "meaningful way" to support the homeless.

The Late Late Toy Show airs on 27 November this year.

You can watch last night's episode of the Late Late Show on the RTE Player here.