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Douglas Gageby, 85; Longtime Editor Transformed Irish Times

June 29, 2004|From Associated Press

Douglas Gageby, who transformed the Irish Times from the voice of Ireland's dwindling Protestant minority into the most respected newspaper on the island, has died. He was 85.

Gageby, who edited the newspaper from 1963 to 1974 and again from 1977 to 1986, died Thursday in Dublin after a two-year illness, his family and former co-workers said.

He was cremated Saturday after a private family funeral.

The current editor, Geraldine Kennedy, said Gageby "molded and shaped the Irish Times and the best of Irish journalism for most of the latter half of the 20th century."

Gageby, a Protestant, rose initially through the ranks of the Irish Press Group controlled by then-Prime Minister Eamon de Valera, an anti-British republican who sought to make the independent Irish Republic an overtly Catholic state.

Gageby took the reins of the Irish Times at a time when the newspaper, like the Protestant minority, was struggling for survival. He built it into a liberal voice featuring detailed reporting, particularly on Northern Ireland and domestic affairs, that appealed particularly to Ireland's burgeoning Catholic middle class.

Conor Brady, who succeeded Gageby as editor in 1986, recalled in a tribute in Monday's edition how Gageby "had an extraordinary capacity for mobilizing and stimulating those around him to give of their best."

"If you asked him what makes a good journalist, he would say 'curiosity,' " Brady wrote. "When I went for an interview as a young graduate he asked me: 'If you were in my house and I left you to go and make a cup of tea, would you read the letters on my mantelpiece?' I said I would. 'Good man,' came the response. 'Be here on the first of October and there's a job for you.' "

Throughout his career, Gageby avoided the cocktail party circuit and rarely appeared on television, insisting that the editor's job was to criticize the ruling elite, not to befriend or join it.

After his retirement, for a decade he continued to write the newspaper's regular nature column, "In Time's Eye," -- anonymously, signing each piece "Y."

Gageby was born in Dublin, the only son of a junior civil servant under British rule. He was educated at the Belfast Royal Academy, where he excelled in languages, especially German. He went on to college at Trinity College Dublin but quit at the outbreak of World War II and joined the army.

After the war, he married and began his career with the Irish Press.

A widower, he is survived by daughters Sally and Susan, a judge on Ireland's Supreme Court; sons John and Patrick; 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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