Puppeteer Eugene Lambert dies aged 82

Tue, Feb 23, 2010, 00:00

Puppeteer and ventriloquist Eugene Lambert has died, aged 82

A native of Sligo, Mr Lambert is survived by his wife Mai and eight children.

Mr Lambert was well-known for his role in the children's television series Wanderly Wagon as 'O'Brien' and the 1960s puppet series for children Murphy agus a Chairde.

He founded the Lambert Puppet Theatre in Monkstown, Co Dublin, in 1972.

An early passion for puppets and ventriloquism became a lifelong career for Mr Lambert, who was a driving force behind the International Puppet Festival of Ireland.

Emily Tully said her grandfather’s death had come as a huge shock to his wife and eight remaining children.

“He was still working, he was never somebody who would retire. He’s left a real legacy, he was a legend really, and it was a great childhood for all of us - all of us have worked in the puppet theatre at some stage," she said. "He was a creative man and he loved children’s entertainment. He never wanted to do anything other than that.”

Ms Tully described how Mr Lambert once sang Happy Birthday through one of his puppets to pop star Michael Jackson.

Jackson befriended the veteran puppeteer after playing a concert in Dublin in 1992 and visited him again with his three children on his birthday in August 2007.

The Arts Council paid tribute to Mr Lambert, describing him as “a committed and passionate artist who almost single-handedly put Ireland on the map in terms of puppet theatre”.

“From his work on RTÉ with Wanderly Wagon, to his ongoing commitment to puppet theatre, he inspired a generation of puppet theatre makers, and delighted and entertained generations of Irish children and their parents,” the council’s head of theatre, David Parnell, said.

Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen also expressed his sadness at Mr Lambert's passing, describing him as “a natural storyteller whose words were entertaining and accessible to his young audiences”.

Mr Cullen said his puppet theatre has “animated and intrigued generation after generation”.

He expressed his sincere sympathies to the Lambert family, saying “Eugene’s legacy will live on through his talented family”.

Mr Lambert had been due to celebrate his 60th wedding anniversary with wife this summer.