Perceptive journalist and supportive, kind friend known for her generosity

Noeleen Dowling: April 4th, 1947 – May 2nd, 2014


Noeleen Dowling, a journalist who reported and wrote on everything from politics to the arts, health and local history in a long career, has died aged 67.

That career began in 1966 when, at 19, she started in the Dublin office of the Cork Examiner, continuing until stopped two years ago by a cruel illness, PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy).

She was a regular newsroom reporter for the Examiner and later the Irish Press group, covering the Dáil and the courts as well as big stories that included the funeral of princess Grace in Monaco, the Stardust inquiry, toddler Colin McStay’s Pittsburgh liver transplant and Ann Lovett’s death in Granard.

She also loved books and writers, knew, admired and encouraged many: they included her best friend Clare Boylan, Stewart Parker and Douglas Kennedy. Friend Mary Kenny remembers her as “very cheerful, very very well read and erudite without being in the least bit stuffy . . . I always respected her judgement about writing and writers. I think her friend Clare came to depend on her as a great sounding board”.

Kennedy remembers Noeleen as “one of the most culturally aware people I’ve ever met, always learning”. But what struck him most was “her great talent for kindness; she was like a great big sister. She was the most supportive friend a writer could have: writers always want a good friend who will say ‘that works, that doesn’t’.”

Educated at Dominican Convent, Sion Hill, Dublin, she began work as a cub reporter when there were few women Irish journalism. But working in the Examiner’s small Dublin office offered many opportunities: as well as general news, she reported on fashion, theatre and visiting celebrities.

She was a perceptive and enthusiastic drama critic. A highlight of her career covering theatre was travelling with the Abbey to Russia when it toured in the 1970s. She also briefly presented an RTÉ TV news feature programme, Caravan.

She was from Naas, Co Kildare, where her father’s family owned a garage, a pub and a grocery. Her mother Eithne Lawlor, from Dunlavin, Co Wicklow, had a love of drama – and cats – which she passed on to daughters, Noeleen and Lou.

Noeleen met future husband, John Grindle, in 1974 and moved with him to Edinburgh in 1977, working in the communications office of the university while contributing regularly to Dublin’s Hibernia magazine.

They returned to Dublin in 1980, where she began work in the Irish Press group. She became a features writer, then deputy features editor of the Evening Press.

After the Press closed in 1995, she had a varied career, working longest as a communications executive with the Eastern Health Board. Other jobs included working for Bord Iascaigh Mhara as a fish cookery adviser and lecturing on communications in DIT. At the same time, she studied for a BA at Oscail, DCU’s open university, then for an MA in local history in NUI Maynooth. She regularly reviewed books on local history for the Irish Times.

All her friends and colleagues remember Noeleen as kind, gracious, stylish, fun, generous – and a gifted cook. She nursed her mother Eithne until her death in 2005 and then helped to care for her friend Clare until she died in 2006. She bore her own illness with grace and dignity.

Her husband John looked after her caringly, lovingly, until her death a month after her 67th birthday.

She is survived by her husband, John, sister Lou McGovern and nephew and niece, Caimin and Kerrie.