A valued wordsmith, the best of hosts and networkers
Sean Hogan was a raconteur, a wit, a wordsmith, a prodigious host and a good friend to an extraordinary variety of people, from princes to paupers. He spent almost all of his working life with The Irish Times and in every function he served he left his imprint of thoroughness and exactitude.
He was born in Tipperary, the son of John and Kitty Hogan, their third child after sister Alicia and brother Frank. The Hogans were well established, having farmed close to Cashel for generations. He was schooled in nearby Rockwell College whose motto, Inter mutanda constantia (“Constancy in the midst of inevitable change”), was to resonate greatly with him in later years.
Man of many talents
He was a man of many talents but – like his brother Frank, a very successful motor dealer – farming was not one of them. Sean travelled to London and worked briefly in an administration role in Fleet Street before settling in Dublin, first with Dublin Corporation as a clerical officer for a year, and then in 1968, joining The Irish Times as an assistant librarian alongside Charlie Bird, later of RTÉ fame.
He moved from the library to credit control and then advertising, but in 1978 took the leap from the commercial side of the house into editorial to take charge of the Newspaper in the Classroom operation under Education Editor (and great friend) Christina Murphy.
His job was to bring an interest in the newspaper and good writing to young school children. He had an inexhaustible list of ideas for doing so; Music in the Classroom being one. Christina and then editor Douglas Gageby gave him his head and never regretted it. He took great pride in representing The Irish Times in that and indeed in any capacity.
Sean was never satisfied with just one job. Under editor Conor Brady, he was the go-to man for exceptional projects that needed detailed planning. Among these was his role as administrator of The Irish Times Literary Awards. He organised their launch in New York at the Pierpoint Morgan Library – and to the astonishment of all he cajoled notoriously reclusive Jackie Kennedy Onassis to attend. He organised colloquiums at Harvard University; presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese were brought over to speak. Sean’s contacts and pull were the stuff of legend.
His people-skills were a measure of the man. Whether in his flat in Palmerston Park, later in Wilton Court, a guest might rub shoulders with ambassadors, judges, university presidents, titled gentry and world-class musicians, but you did not have to have any claim to fame to be a valued friend of his. He was a very able cook and insatiable host. What interested him most was conversation and debate.
His father was an ardent Fianna Fáil supporter, his mother supported Fine Gael and neither gave an inch. Sean was brought up in a house of much debate.
Large retinue of friends
Music was a huge part of his life. He joined the Rathmines & Rathgar Musical Society on arriving in Dublin and, for years, was a major contributor to its efforts and it brought him a large retinue of friends. He was a good tenor but was quick to tell all that his place belonged in the chorus and nowhere else.
His interest in classical music was deep and devoted. He also played bridge enthusiastically but not very competitively.
He moved within the newspaper to be Letters Editor and the first Obituaries Editor. He brought a punctiliousness and precision to both roles that raised the bar for all that were to follow.
His skills as a wordsmith came fully into play. Nothing was too much trouble. Weekends would be invaded with work without a thought.
Sean took early retirement in 2002. He had been badly injured in a car accident, suffering spinal complications that were only going to get worse, and he recognised that working through to normal retirement was not ideal. He purchased a life-interest in a retirement dwelling in Cashel soon afterwards. He was not to know then of the many unrelated illnesses that would afflict him thereafter but visits to see him in hospital were occasioned always with good cheer and chat and never a word of self-pity.
Sean is survived by his mother Kitty, sister Alicia, brother Frank, sister-in-law Fran and by relatives and friends who will never forget him.
He was buried in Cashel with his father, John, who died in 1976.