Sunday 11 December 2016

A master of his beloved craft

Aengus Fanning set a high standard for all those who worked with him, writes Ulick O'Connor

Published 22/01/2012 | 05:00

Aengus with his wife and deputy editor Anne
Harris
Aengus with his wife and deputy editor Anne Harris

Once a month, I would have had dinner with Aengus Fanning to discuss articles for the Sunday Independent.

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There was always a moment when you were talking to him and he would look you straight in the eye and you'd know he was no longer listening to what you were saying. He was thinking of how to fit an idea into a framework that would grab a reader's attention.

He had an unerring eye for what would or would not work in an article when it came off the page into the reader's mind.

Aengus was a master of the craft of journalism in an era when hacking has hoovered out hard work, and replaced it with irresponsible fantasy. He wrote frequently with immaculate style in the paper under his own name and set a standard for those who worked with him.

In the Fifties, I had written a column for the Sunday Independent under Hector Legge's editorship. Aengus, always on the lookout for a leap forward, liked to talk about that era and how Hector had left his stamp on it.

Aengus had a rare gift for organisation and had created two small kingdoms for himself -- the annual Birr Music Festival and the Sunday Independent Cricket Society.

He hoped with the music festival to make it an Irish version of the Newport Rhode Island festival and succeeded in attracting performers of the calibre of Acker Bilk, Stan Grieg, Mike Henry, Paddy Cole. Aengus founded the Sunday Independent Cricket Society and every year organised a magnificent dinner where cricket stars from all over the world came as guests, and recent victories of the Irish cricket team were celebrated.

He himself had been a gifted Gaelic footballer and played for the Kerry senior team when he was 17 along with Mick O'Dwyer and Paudie Sheehy.

Aengus was fortunate in having Anne Harris as Deputy Editor who shared his view on journalism as a craft, and his instinct for what made a good story.

Aengus was a kind man. He would frequently ring up to say that somebody was in trouble and could one help. I remember his concern for the writer Sean O Faolain in his old age, who lived across the road in Glasthule.

Aengus would encourage people to drop in and have a chat. His relationship with his three splendid sons, Dion, Evan and Stephen, was warming to see.

"After life's fitful fever he sleeps well."

Sunday Independent

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