Little Museum’s newspaper office recreates ‘Times’ past

Exhibition telling the history of ‘The Irish Times’ goes on display in Dublin

October 3rd, 2014: The Irish Times Editor’s Room exhibition at the Little Museum of Dublin is a snap-shot canter through some of the newspaper’s 150 year history, built around the persona of its most famous editor, RM Smyllie. Video: Bryan O'Brien


A little history of The Irish Times has gone on display at the Little Museum of Dublin on St Stephen’s Green.

The Editor’s Room is a re-creation of the paper at the time when it was run by Robert “Bertie” Smyllie, one of its most legendary and successful editors.

Smyllie was editor of The Irish Times from 1934 to 1954. The exhibition includes his old typewriter, which was given to The Irish Times by Maeve Binchy, and the front page of the paper marking VE Day on May 8th, 1945.

In order to get past the censors, who frowned on partisanship in the war, Smyllie ensured the photographs on that front page were marked out in a V shape, a subliminal sign denoting support for the British war effort.

Smyllie’s old desk is also there, as is his desk lamp, donated by former deputy editor Dennis Kennedy.

The first front page of the paper from the first edition published on March 29th, 1859, is also on display.

The exhibition was curated by Irish Times journalist Peter Murtagh, who described the newspaper during Smyllie’s time as an “extraordinary place”.

It was The Irish Times of Patrick Campbell, Patrick Kavanagh, Flann O’Brien and others of the Palace Bar set. It was during this period that The Irish Times moved from being the traditional newspaper of Southern unionists to the mainstream newspaper it is today.

“Under Smyllie’s leadership, the paper began seriously to embrace the new State, reflecting and identifying with its interests as an independent country and not an adjunct of Britain,” Murtagh said last night. “It is not often remembered for instance that Smyllie gave Éamon de Valera a fair wind in his editorials when the Fianna Fáil leader attained power; nor that he gave little quarter to the Blueshirt element that emerged in Irish politics in the 1930s.”

Murtagh joked that Smyllie would never have survived nowadays, because he did not believe in interacting with his readers . “If you happen to work for a newspaper and you receive a letter, you must not, repeat not, in any circumstances reply to it,” he once told an underling. Instead, Smyllie suggested that an editor should always deploy the technique of “masterful inactivity”.