Obituary: John Spain, renowned integrity and humor journalist who has enjoyed a prolific career in the United States and Ireland


Journalist John Spain died on October 27 at the age of 75, after a distinguished career in national and Irish-American media that spanned 50 years.

After being diagnosed with cancer six years ago, he died at Mater Private Hospital in Dublin surrounded by his loving family: his wife, fashion designer Carolyn Donnelly, their daughter Lily and their twin sons Jack and Harry .

Born April 1, 1946, John was the oldest of 10 children and grew up in Monasterevin, Co Kildare. His father was a branch manager at local maltsters Minch Norton (makers of malt for brewing and distillation) and later became a farmer.

John’s passion for journalism developed from an early age. As a schoolboy he had the idea of ​​rewriting pieces of historical or political interest from encyclopedias and other sources which he sent to the deceased. Irish press, where several articles have been published.

After studying economics and politics at Trinity College Dublin, he accepted a job with the Irish press in early 1971 and was promoted to associate editor under Tim Pat Coogan in 1975.

His talent and skills caught the attention of Independent Irish edited by the late Vinnie Doyle and in 1987 moved to this newspaper where the positions he held over the years were columnist, supplement editor, news editor and finally , publisher of books.

In addition, he contributed to a weekly column published by the New York newspaper. Irish voice journal and its associated website

After her passing last Wednesday, prominent author and journalist Mary Kenny tweeted: “Nice guy. Was delighted to write for him when he was editor-in-chief of the Independent Irish. “

Former colleague Frank Coughlan described him as: “An excellent boss, wonderful and uncompromising colleague and editor with a successful career in both indo and the press.

Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, wrote: “John was a journalist with integrity, humor and wisdom. The best of the company.

From December 1987 he wrote a weekly column “Ireland Calling” at Irish voice, founded by Niall O’Dowd, who wrote last week: “The loss of John Spain will be profound.

Due to my work from the United States for the Irish presshe got to know John’s “uncompromising, straightforward style and strong straightforward opinions”.

Describing him as “the anti-conformist of the pack,” O’Dowd continued, “He made no secret that he deeply hated the Provos, that the Irish-Americans were stupid to follow them, that America Irish was backward and did not understand the new Ireland. , etc. The reaction to his weekly column was swift and savage.

“Irish America didn’t like being lectured from Ireland about the events there in such a blunt and provocative way. At the time there was no internet, but I can safely say that at his age John was receiving about 50 letters a week.

Urged by some readers to abandon Spain, O’Dowd said it never crossed his mind: “Thinking back to John’s chronicles, I am struck by how prescient they were. ”

Identifying early on the crisis of the Catholic Church, predicting the disastrous boom and collapse of real estate, John Spain was, in O’Dowd’s words, someone who understood “the cross currents that make ‘Ireland such a fascinating place’.

The last of his chronicles appeared in the Irish voice and on on October 6, just three weeks before his death.

Thinking back to 34 years in the slot machine, he wrote: “It ends today only because of poor health. At over 1,500 words per week, for 34 years, that’s about two and a half million words, not bad for a two-finger typist. This equates to 25 pounds of average size. Sounds like a lot, except that it quickly became a routine of my work week and rarely felt like a chore.

He continued to write the column after retiring from Independent Irish, news and politics remaining a major personal interest.

Very devoted to his family, he was happiest in their company at his seaside home in Howth, County Dublin.

Expressions of sympathy and condolences on the website included a reference to the famous quote from scientist Albert Einstein that said, “Our death is not an end if we can live in our children and the younger generation.” Because they are us; our bodies are just withered leaves on the tree of life.

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