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A roller coaster ride I wouldn't trade for anything

It was a very different place, Dublin in 1986, the year I started working, aged 24, as a night desk sub-editor in the Irish Independent, half my current lifetime ago. The world of newspapers was very different as well.

It was a vivid, chaotic, romantic world of paper and ink, of copytakers and copyboys, clacking typewriters and clanking hot-metal typesetting machines, just like in the movies. And, of course, it was the world of Vinnie Doyle, former editor of the Irish Independent, who died yesterday at the age of 72.

That world, like Vinnie, who filled it with his presence, has gone forever. I came in at the tail end of it, was lucky enough to get a taste of it and to work with people who taught me things I could never have learned a couple of short years later, just as the era of roaring basement printing machines -- and roaring basement printers -- was about to make way for an era of software and screens and near-silent keyboards.

Vinnie was my boss, my editor, THE editor, for my 15 years as a staff journalist with the Indo. Working for Vinnie was like being on a rollercoaster. It could be exhilarating and exciting, frustrating and maddening, sometimes all in the same week. Jesus, sometimes in the same hour!

But the one thing it never was, not for a single day of those 15 years, was dull or predictable. I'd be lying if I said Vinnie, who was respected, admired and feared in equal measure, was always easy to work for. But then the best in their field rarely are, and he was -- and still is -- the greatest Irish newspaper editor of all. He was tough and demanding, and could be contrary -- not least on Friday evenings, when we in the features department had just put the final touches to the next day's Weekender supplement, as it was then called, only for Vinnie to ring up and say he wanted a page ripped out and replaced.

You hated him for it. But that passed. Being on the receiving end of one of his volcanic rages wasn't fun. If you screwed up (which I did many times), he'd chew your balls off. But the rage, too, passed. If you happened to find yourself in the pub with him later, he'd buy you a pint. I don't ever recall him bearing me a grudge. When something was over, it was over. If he thought you'd done something well, he'd be the first to tell you.

Would I change anything about those 15 years? Damn right! But I wouldn't trade for anything in the world the experience of working under Vinnie Doyle.

There have been many tributes to him and there will be many more. But let me finish with a text message a close friend and colleague, who also worked under Vinnie during those years, sent me yesterday: "To paraphrase The Wire: Vinnie was 'pure paper'. RIP."

Pat Stacey worked as a sub-editor with the Independent before joining the Herald as our TV critic


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