Liam Hyland – An Appreciation

Editor of ‘Donegal Times’ and stalwart of local community

Liam Hyland: held in high regard for his hard work and integrity

Liam Hyland: held in high regard for his hard work and integrity

 

Liam Hyland, who died aged 73 at his home in his native Donegal town, was celebrated as the unofficial spokesperson for the town and surrounding villages through the fortnightly newspaper Donegal Times, which he owned and edited. He was a late convert to journalism, having spent much of his adult life running the family-owned Hyland Central Hotel.

For some years, he linked his management of the hotel to the newspaper, which started as a community newsletter at his suggestion in 1989 when he was president of the Donegal Chamber of Commerce. The paper was printed as a supplement to the Donegal Democrat. Within a year, the paper was a stand-alone publication with Mr Hyland as proprietor, working with a small paid staff and volunteer contributors.

He continued in the hotel, mainly operating away from front of house in the back bar or in the basement bistro, which he named Just Williams, and in which he was often seen behind the carvery, wearing a chef’s hat and with a tea towel neatly draped across his arm.

Liam Hyland was a shy and modest person but not one, as a close friend remembered, to tolerate fools gladly.

He overcame his bashfulness through an outspoken diary in the Donegal Times in which he regularly commented without fear or favour.

The column was required reading in nearly every household in the small circulation area of Donegal town and surrounding villages.

Whatever readers thought of his views, nobody questioned his integrity.

His column was also a fabulous historical record of days in the town going back to his childhood. In his last diary, written just days before he died, he recalled selling the hotel after “six months of haggling” to former TD Jim White in 2001.

While the Donegal Times concentrated on the local titbits, it also excelled in its coverage of national and international stories on its territory like the visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in May 2016, and Donegal’s All-Ireland homecoming in 2012.

Following an education in his local Hugh Roe National School, Newbridge College, UCD, and work at Wexford’s Talbot Hotel, Mr Hyland arrived back in Donegal 1970 to help his mother Brede run the Hyland Central following the death of his father John at the age of 57.

He sacrificed plans to continue his career in New York to help run the family hotel. The only time he left Donegal since then for any period before his death was for a six-week break in the 1980s when he flew by Concorde to New York and joined a cruise to the Caribbean and a visit to the Rio carnival.

Mr Hyland so loved Donegal that he was immersed in its sporting associations, and was a keen oarsman, cyclist and runner. He ran the Dublin city marathon in around 3 hours 50 minutes in 1980, and the following year he completed it in around 3 hours 30 minutes. In the 1980s, he completed a 350km Belfast-Dublin return cycle organised by a cross-Border peace and reconciliation organisation.

He displayed amazing grit in completing the run because he did it with a plaster around a wrist he broke in an accident the day before.

As Fr Seamus Dagens recalled in a poignant sermon at the requiem Mass, Liam was in tune with his love for Donegal, a town for which he had a vision and where he would support any idea that would improve or develop it.

Liam Hyland was predeceased by his father John and mother Brede. He is survived by sisters Ann, Bregeen, Joan, Leonie, Mary and Bernie.