Tributes to Anthony Cronin highlight privately kind man

Publisher Dermot Bolger reflects on encouragement visible from teenage years

Theo Dorgan, pictured,  said Anthony Cronin was a man with a great heart who had sacrificed a certain amount of reputation by sitting down with the “political machines’’ in setting up Aosdána to help writers and artists. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Theo Dorgan, pictured, said Anthony Cronin was a man with a great heart who had sacrificed a certain amount of reputation by sitting down with the “political machines’’ in setting up Aosdána to help writers and artists. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

The privately kind man was highlighted in many of the tributes paid to Anthony Cronin yesterday.

Poet Michael O’Loughlin said Cronin’s death threw into focus the astonishing range of his achievements as cultural commentator, memoirist, novelist, biographer and, above all, poet.

“But to many writers he was also a true, if rigorous, friend, and a generous mentor,’’ he added. “He was not the kind of friend who told you what your wanted to hear, with his infallible nose for any falsehood or pretence, any trace of sentimentality, and his distaste for easy victories.’’

Mr O’Loughlin said it was this “steely power of analysis and intellectual rigour’’ that made him a unique figure in Irish literature.

“Poetry was always his central obsession and any discussion of poetry with Tony, whether about his, your own, or others, would leave you illuminated and thoughtful, but often also bruised and battered,’’ he said.

Poet Theo Dorgan recalled a man with a severe streak but also a great sense of fun.

“There was a romantic in there as well,’’ he said.

Mr Dorgan said Cronin was a man with a great heart who had sacrificed a certain amount of reputation by sitting down with the “political machines’’ in setting up Aosdána to help writers and artists.

Poet Dermot Bolger, who was Cronin’s publisher for 36 of the 40 years he knew him, recalled how seriously he treated his teenage poetic endeavours.

Cronin, he said, had encouraged him but, more importantly, provided serious critical insight.

“Whenever I met him, I knew I was in the presence of a poet of enormous intellectual depth, proud of his nationality but always steadfastly a true citizen of a far wider intellectual, historical and physical world,’’ he said.

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys said he would perhaps be best remembered for “his cultural activism and his work as an advocate for the artists of Ireland”.

Arts Council chairwoman Sheila Pratschke said Cronin was “a rare example of the public intellectual in Irish life: committed, fearless, rigorous in this thought, and unashamedly forthright in his advocacy of what he thought right and good’’.