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Gifted artist who perished in Dalkey house fire painted some of our best-loved signs

THE lasting legacy of tragic artist John Hoey can be seen across the capital, his family revealed in a touching tribute to a talented man and loving father.

The body of John Hoey (47) was found in the charred remains of a derelict period house he was squatting in on Ulverton Road in Dalkey on August 16.

It is believed the talented artist died accidentally after candles he had lit burned the house down.

His handiwork can be seen in businesses in Dun Laoghaire, Monkstown and across the city centre. It includes Doyle's pub on Fleet Street, The Hairy Lemon, Kiely's in Donnybrook and Mount Merrion, and McCormack's jewellers on Grafton Street.

Tragically, drink and drugs were a constant companion and enemy to John during his tumultuous life.


His former partner, Rosemary Pigot, and their son, Jamie, describe John as a man rich in so many ways, but whose extraordinary life was destined to end in tragedy after alcoholism eroded his belief in his talents as a gifted artist.

As a young couple, John and Rosemary bought a house on Camden Street. "We had to borrow money to try and fix the foundations of the house, but we blew the money and then had to sell the house and start renting again," said Rosemary.

John was earning money painting shop signs, and using his talents to hand-carve the lettering.

"We fell apart when I was 25, and me and John went downhill. He was working on his pub signs at home and there were letters and paint everywhere in the house. In the end I left with Jamie," Rosemary explains.

"He had a huge self-destructive personality. You would see him start some artistic project, and it would be beautiful, but then he would just destroy it when he felt it wasn't going his way.

"The pub signs and shop signs were just to pay the rent and for drinking money, yet they are his works that have lasted," Jamie explains. "Sometimes when he was broke he would resort to desperate measures. He did the sign on Goggins pub in Monkstown, and one night he waited until three in the morning before going back and stealing the 'G' off it," Jamie laughed.

"The next day he offered his services to replace the missing letter, and sold them back the 'G' as if he had done it from scratch."

Jamie and Rosemary have a diary John kept, brief entries shining a spotlight on his mind during hard times. Amid entries of measurements for pub signs are the words -- Things to do. 1) Find a girlfriend 2) Get a flat 3) Art, paint 4) Do some work 5) Give up drink.

"John lived on the edge for the last four or five years of his life," Rosemary explains. "He could be dangerous and careless when he was drinking."

"I like to think of it as 'free of caution' more than anything else," laughs Jamie.

"He was always talking about going to France -- that was his dream.

"I remember him as gifted, wise and loving, with ethics, forgiveness, massive presence and pride, and I think he would like to be remembered as a poet, a recognised artist, a true artist in every sense."

"He was rich, but without a penny to his name."

John's wish to get to France will finally come true in the coming days when Jamie takes his ashes to Provence.