ONE of Limerick’s most famous and distinguished journalists has passed away at the age of 92.
Arthur Quinlan, who resided on the North Circular Road, worked as a journalist for over 50 years, mainly with The Irish Times, and was an honorary life member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Mr Quinlan’s funeral mass will take place at the Holy Rosary Church, Ennis Road, this Thursday at 11am, before burial at Castlemungret. He will repose at Thompson’s funeral home, Thomas Street, from 5.30pm to 7pm this Wednesday, St Stephen’s Day.
The BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane, who began his career with the Limerick Leader, said he met Arthur on his first day of work, and noted that he was always “kind to beginners like myself.
“As the man from the Times he carried a certain cache in the eyes of young cubs like myself with no experience and big dreams,” said Mr Keane.
Irish secretary of the NUJ Seamus Dooley said Arthur was one of the best-known reporters in Ireland.
“He was a kind and generous colleague, full of stories and blessed with a wonderful sense of fun. Arthur was a passionate advocate for the development of the Mid-West region, especially Shannon Airport, and as a national correspondent was recognised as ‘Mr Limerick’,” said Mr Dooley.
Castletroy Golf Club, where Arthur was a much loved honorary member – as well as being a former captain and president – paid tribute to “a wonderful man” and sympathised with the Quinlan family.
There were also tributes from Shannon Rowing Club, where Mr Quinlan was president from 1995-98.
Lahinch Golf Club, of which he was also an honorary member, said he would be “deeply missed by all his friends.”
In 2010 he was honoured at the Press Ball in Limerick for his outstanding contribution to the media industry. Arthur himself was a founding member of the same committee in 1951, and was the only surviving member up to his death.
A native of Dublin, Arthur was raised in Quin, Co Clare and studied English literature and history at University College Dublin, where he was editor of two student publications. After university, he began freelancing for Dublin publications, becoming a casual member of The Irish Times, and in 1945 was appointed correspondent to Shannon, which was later extended to include Limerick.
In that era he prided his work for “spreading the gospel of Shannon”, but expressed disappointment that the Mid-West airport failed to be the international hub that it once was in its heyday. He was a guest on every inaugural flight out of Shannon - to all corners of the globe - and in 1958 was the first Irish man to across the Atlantic Ocean by jet to New York.
He interviewed every US president from Harry S. Truman to George Bush; royalty including the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margaret, Prince Rainier of Monaco and his wife, Grace Kelly; and Hollywood screen stars such as Cary Grant, Maureen O’Hara, and Marlene Dietrich.
His account of Che Guevara’s visit to Limerick, when he visited Hanratty’s hotel on Glentworth Street, also made the front page of the Limerick Leader on March 15, 1965.
He once said it was easier to meet the stars in those days, recalling that he simply jumped into his 1939 Morris 8 on receiving a tip-off, sped out to Shannon Airport (then known as Rineanna) and walked out on to the tarmac as the aircraft arrived.
He also enjoyed having a quiet word in the ear of Fidel Castro, and interviewed Taoisigh Sean Lemass and Jack Lynch at the counter of the Sheridan bar in the airport.
“He [Jack Lynch] would have a bottle of Guinness. I’d have something similar, and Lemass might have a Paddy’s whiskey as well. We’d have a couple together and he’d go off home. There were no official press conferences.”
He also worked for RTÉ Television and Radio during the 1960s and 1970s.
Asked by this newspaper in 2010, if there is any better career in the world, he firmly replied “No”.
He said it enriched his life more than he ever imagined, “through the people I met, the colleagues I met.”
Arthur was in his 80s when he finally retired, or as he put it, “handed in my gun” to The Irish Times.
In 1982 he opened the gate for women to join Shannon Rowing Club, after proposing that they be allowed to join, contrary to the precedence up to then.
He was due to mark his 93rd birthday on January 15 next. He is survived by his three children, Tom, Joyce and Ann. He is pre-deceased by his wife Vera, who passed away this April.