FOND tributes have been paid to veteran journalist John Spain, who died this morning at the age of 75.
Mr Spain, who was initially diagnosed with cancer six years ago, died at the Mater Private Hospital in Dublin surrounded by his family, including his wife, fashion designer Carolyn Donnelly, and the couple’s children Lily and twin sons Jack and Harry.
The eldest of 10 children, he grew up in Monasterevin, Co Kildare, before making Howth his home.
Funeral arrangements are still being finalised.
Mr Spain was among a team of senior editorial staff at The Irish Press from 1975 to 1987 under the editorship of Tim Pat Coogan.
He then joined the Irish Independent under editor Vinny Doyle, where he was appointed supplements editor and then features editor.
Mr Spain then took over the helm as books editor and was widely known and respected by both writers and publishers alike.
He also wrote a weekly column for 34 years for the US-based Irish Voice newspaper.
He will be remembered by his colleagues as a “pillar of Irish journalism”, according to Michael Denieffe, former managing editor of the Irish Independent.
Mr Denieffe said Mr Spain was “a superb professional with a meticulous, conscientious and painstaking approach to every task”.
“His low-key style belied the huge contribution he made to the Irish Independent over many years. John was an outstanding journalist and wonderful colleague,” Mr Denieffe said.
Former colleague Pat Hunt, who worked with Mr Spain on educational supplements, described him as “a journalist’s journalist”.
He said he was distraught to hear of his passing.
“A man of ferocious intelligence, impeccable integrity, occasionally the shortest temper on the planet, gruff, abrupt but a heart of gold,” Mr Hunt said.
“He just loved his role of books editor.
“PR people trembled in his presence. John could not be bought and would ruthlessly edit reviews of a writer without a greasy publicity machine behind him or her.
“He was a superb newspaperman: a journalist’s journalist. Vinny Doyle (his then-editor) told me more than once that the Indo was lucky to have him when his stint with The Irish Press came to an end.”
Irish Independent features writer John Meagher said Mr Spain was his mentor when he began as a cub reporter at age 23. While he was a “hard taskmaster”, Mr Meagher said Mr Spain’s only motivation was to ensure the highest journalistic standards.
“Having someone go through your work line by line was absolutely invaluable,” Mr Meagher said. “He was just a born journalist.
“He was someone I was always very fond of. For young journalists, he was invaluable.”
Mr Spain’s brother Kieran Spain, who also worked for the Irish Independent, described him as “a warm and caring individual”, adding that “those who were lucky to know him will mourn his passing and remember him as a good listener and kind friend”.