The widow of popular U105’s Paul McKenna, who lost his battle with cancer this week, has spoken about their final moments together.

t was as the DJ (46) was about to slip away — leaving wife Emma, ​​and their three children, inconsolable.

“He just asked ‘Emma am I going to die?’. I replied ‘yes, darling it’s time for me to tell you the truth’,” said Emma.

“He asked me not to let the three girls forget him and he told me how much he loved me.

“He made me promise I would go to New York next year for my 40th birthday as that’s where he had planned to take me.

“I told him his mum and dad were waiting for their wee boy and I kissed him and held his hand and he passed away at 5.15pm.”

That was last Wednesday and ‘the truth’ Emma referred to was having to tell Paul his cancer was going to take him.

He was first diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in June, 2020. A scan and tests revealed he also had it in his lung, which was successfully removed.

Paul thought he had beaten the disease after undergoing a year of chemotherapy.

Then came the shattering news — it had returned.

“When he was first told he had cancer it was terrible. He was devastated but he said straightaway that he was going to fight it and he fought it with everything he had right to the end,” said his wife Emma. “I was told last October that he was terminal, but Paul didn’t want to know so I had to keep it from him.”

Emma said her brave husband “fought to the end” – and still went out of his way to help others.

“Six weeks ago, he took a bad turn and was sent home from hospital with a syringe driver. He had a gig to do three weeks ago and he insisted on doing it and he went off with the syringe driver round his neck. Paul would never let anyone down,” said Emma.

And that included those he loved. The father insisted on buying a new house, but he only got to spend five nights in it.

“He had wanted us to move because he wanted me and the girls to be settled,” he said.

“We slept downstairs the first night and Paul never got up again. I nursed him all week and he fought to the end. On Wednesday I knew he needed professional care and we arranged for him to go into the hospice.”

Paul had his fair share of heartache before meeting Emma 16 years ago. He was just 19 when he lost his mother Margaret to breast cancer at the age of 64.

He then spent the next four years nursing his father William through dementia. He passed away in 2002. Emma was the love of his life. When they met, Paul had a daughter Eimear (now 20), and Emma also had a girl around the same age, Rachel (now 21).

The four became one and to complete their family the couple tried for a baby. They were just about to embark on IVF after eight years when their “little miracle” Evie-Grace was born.


Paul McKenna with his family

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Paul McKenna with his family

Now aged four, Evie-Grace and her two sisters are understandably shattered by the loss of their devoted dad.

“The girls are all devastated and I’ve told Evie-Grace her dad is now the brightest star in the sky and we can go out every night and look up and tell him about her day,” said Emma.

“Paul was my best friend, a devoted dad and husband and a friend to everyone. He really was the best man ever.”

Paul’s death is also a huge loss to the many who knew him as a wedding DJ and through his charity work. He fundraised for the Cancer Fund for Children’s respite center in his home town of Newcastle.

His DJ career took off quite quickly when he first started in his local night club, Central Park in Newcastle, in his early 20s. He got what he later described as ‘my first big break’ when he secured a residency in the popular The Groovy Train at the M Club in Belfast in 1997.

He moved to radio in 2006 as a presenter with 5FM in Newry, part of the Q Radio Network. Initially presenting one night a week, he was soon working four nights and then got the job of breakfast presenter and eventually operations manager.

He left in 2009 and worked freelance for three years with Downtown Radio before joining U105 in 2014 presenting the Sunday afternoon show.

In 2018 he took on the overnight program from midnight until 6am Monday to Thursday, a job he later described to Sunday Life as “my dream come true”.

A loyal band of listeners became like extended family as Paul naturally connected with them, and many took to social media to express their sorrow at the loss of a man most regarded as a friend.

Those friends joined the many others for his funeral at Our Lady Of The Assumption Church in Newcastle yesterday, as his family and friends from the world of broadcasting, including U105 presenters Frank Mitchell and Johnny Hero and Q Radio’s Ibe Sesay, said a final goodbye.


Paul's coffin after the funeral service

Paul’s coffin after the funeral service

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Paul’s coffin after the funeral service


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