The word legend is indeed appropriate when recalling the life and career of journalist and broadcaster, Arthur Quinlan, who died in Limerick at the weekend aged 92.
For decades he reigned supreme in chronicling events in Limerick and Shannon for the Irish Times and the Cork Examiner and latterly the Irish Examiner. He also worked extensively as a freelance for RTÉ.
Having joined the Irish Times after leaving UCD, he took the advice of editor, Bertie Smylie, that fledgling Shannon Airport was the place to be for a young, ambitious journalist.
And for over 50 years he reported on Shannon’s momentous, sometimes tragic events, and interviewed many of the great international figures who passed through.
Hollywood stars, Russian leaders, and future popes were interviewed by Arthur, who sent his dispatches to the four corners of the globe via Reuters, United Press International, AP, and a myriad of broadcasting organisations.
He was one of the few Western journalists to get an interview with Che Guevara when his flight stopped at Shannon en route to Moscow.
He also got a rare interview with Captain Charles Lindbergh shortly after the fatal kidnapping of his young son. Capt Lindbergh opened up to Arthur in a story which had editors shouting “hold the front page”.
Arthur was also the master of executing international scoops. On getting a tip-off that Air Force One was due to make a stop at Shannon with the then president George Bush, Arthur drove to the airport in the wee hours in the hope of getting an interview. Bush was not due to leave the plane, but decided to visit duty free shops at 4am.
Arthur got a brief but very important interview with Bush on the Middle East and was on the phone moments later flashing it to the international news agencies he worked for.
As his report hit newsrooms in the US, frantic editors deluged the communications room on Air Force One to find out what was going on and why was an Irish ‘stringer’ filing such a story.
Phones were a lifeline to journalists at Shannon and in the early days there were only two in the public area. Arthur always ensured he had airport staff ‘man’ the two phones so he was first off the blocks to file his copy.
Arthur occupied the editor’s chair at the Limerick Weekly Echo for a number of years and created a great tradition there of giving a start to young reporters. Among those who cut their teeth there were Brian Looney, John Downing, and Martin Byrnes.
Arthur had a great passion for golf and was a former captain and president of Castletroy. He spent his summers in Lahinch and turned his hand to sports journalism, covering the South of Ireland for many of the national papers.
He was a lifelong member and past president of Shannon Rowing Club. The club named its main slipway after Arthur.
Arthur is survived by son, Tom, and daughters, Joyce and Anne. His removal takes place on Wednesday at 7pm from Thompson’s Funeral Home to the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. His funeral Mass is on Thursday at 11am followed by burial at Castlemungret Cemetery.
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