“The past, is never dead. It’s not even past,” declared William Faulkner in Requiem for a Nun.
You might say the same of Dick Warner; the indomitable spirit of this remarkable man will live on in our memories.
The hundreds of pieces he penned for the Outdoors page of this newspaper planted ideas and vivid phrases in the psyches of his many readers.
Dick was a natural writer. It has been a privilege to publish a weekly column beside his.
“Books are the accumulated memory store of the human race,” he once remarked.
His introduction to the “trees” item in the Collins Gem Series was a particular favourite of mine; the ideas he introduced there have stayed with me since I first read it in 1995.
Recalling some of his insights on how long trees live seems particularly apt on the sad occasion of his passing. “The mother of all bramleys is a very old tree now,” he wrote.
“It seems that stress promotes long life in trees, rather the opposite of what it is supposed to do in humans,” he wrote.
We pollard and coppice them for their own good.
Dick, in his 71 years, endured more than his fair share of stress, battling a life-threatening ailment for decades.
It never fazed him however; looking death in the face, he carried on regardless.
That the final assault of the Grim Reaper should have taken place when he was sailing the Shannon is tragic. It is also, perhaps, how he might have chosen to go.
Existentialism claims that each us is our own unique creation.
The persona of this man of many parts was rich and eclectic indeed.
His interests extended from fly-fishing, on which he was an authority, to Irish railway history.
He worked on over 90 television documentaries, winning the Jacob’s award for Waterways. Producing the Mooney Goes Wild radio show, leading field trips at the annual Lough Ree Summer School or filming his celebrated boat trips, I don’t recall ever seeing him angry or even agitated; there was a touch of the timeless oriental mystic about Dick.
That deep resonant voice would have been the envy of any Indian holy man who might have heard him.
A much-travelled observer, Dick once described to me some childhood experiences he had in the court of Haile Selassie, where his father was tutor to the children. The emperor, it seems loved animals and received presents of them from visiting potentates.
One who drank deeply of life’s cup, Dick Warner taught us not only how to live, but in a sense, how to die. He will be sadly missed.
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