Leading fashion journalist and Dublin historian

Joan Tighe: June 28th, 1922-January 30th, 2014


Joan Tighe, who died recently in Dublin aged 91, was a leading fashion journalist and a devoted chronicler of the antiquities of her native city.

International fashion designer Paul Costelloe traced the beginning of his career to Tighe’s reviews for the Evening Herald of the “ad hoc” fashion shows he staged in his Dublin suburban home in the 1970s and 1980s.

Tighe was the eldest of five children of civil servant Robert Tighe and his wife Catherine. As a child she was forever writing short plays and sketches, which were staged in the living room of their Glasnevin home, her younger siblings cast in supporting roles. She later attended the Abbey Theatre school, but could not earn a living by acting, so she studied shorthand and typing instead.

This won her a job at advertising agency Wilson Hartnell, which published a women’s magazine called Tatler and Sketch – later known as Irish Tatler – where her flair was greatly valued by new proprietor Michael Maughan.

There she wrote fashion and features, social diaries, “who wore what dress by which designer at the Belvedere College past pupils’ union dinner dance” pieces, news of prominent engagements and “good” marriages – all essential reading for fashionable Irish ladies.

It was also good training for a journalist, and soon Bartle Pitcher of Independent Newspapers hired her for the Herald to fend off competition for women readers from the rival Evening Press .

Thus began a most productive period of Tighe’s working life. Unlike many writing journalists, she grasped that the marriage between word and picture was the key to success.

Always immaculately turned out, the clickety-click of her high heels in the corridors of Independent House in Abbey Street announced her approach before she came into view. And if she had a view about the downbeat sweaters and jeans worn by younger female colleagues, she kept it to herself. Tighe liked her bright colours.

When a colleague was struggling, Tighe was never far away. “Would you like me to have a look at that?” she might say to one despairing young reporter agonising over a typewriter; “he’s often like that dear, it will all be forgotten tomorrow,” to another, savaged by a macho boss. And a “little drink” with Tighe in the Oval pub after work held great healing powers.

Local history
Alongside this work she wrote vividly about local history and heritage for the Dublin Historical Record , published by the Old Dublin Society, for three decades. During her 10-year stint as its editor, she increased the number of illustrated articles exponentially. “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing right,” she said.

In retirement, Tighe was a regular at cultural and artistic events – often accompanied by her sister Colette, who also died recently – and also undertook many freelance writing commissions.

An incident while in hospital just weeks before she died illustrated what a consummate newspaperwoman she was. The shop in the hospital foyer had run out of newspapers early in the day. Tighe took action. She sent an urgent message to her nephew Ken Sweeney, also a journalist. “Tell the Herald circulation department to send another 40 copies a day up here. They’ll sell them all.”

She is survived by her sisters, Joyce Sweeney and Pauline Pender.