Funeral of Fergus Linehan told of kindness and principles

A theatre man who was ‘an appallingly bad actor’ and a dad who loved unconditionally

Family and members of the Cavaliers Cricket Club at the funeral of Fergus Linehan in Blackrock, Co Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Family and members of the Cavaliers Cricket Club at the funeral of Fergus Linehan in Blackrock, Co Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Fergus Linehan’s funeral was an occasion to mourn “but also to give thanks for our gentle, kind, brilliant, generous, erudite husband, Dad, Papa, who loved us all so unconditionally and who taught us so much,” his son Hugh told mourners in St John the Baptist Church in Blackrock, Co Dublin on Friday.

Mr Linehan (82), a former arts editor of The Irish Times, died last Tuesday.

Speaking at the end of the funeral Mass, Hugh Linehan recalled how “growing up, we took it for granted that Dad was a playwright, a satirist, a radio scriptwriter, a lyricist, a critic, an editor, often at the same time.

“He was arts editor of the Irish Times. He had a succession of shows at the Abbey. He had Get An Earful of This running every Sunday night on the radio, and he was launching into the Des and Rosie revues which were a terrible burden to us siblings because half the country thought that Des [Keogh] was our dad.”

He said his father liked working in comedy as it was “an area that didn’t take itself too seriously. He was a shy man who loved to make people laugh.”

His father, however, was “an appallingly bad actor, so it was very cunning of him to fall in love with, and marry, a woman who would do justice to his lines in so many shows,” he said in a reference to Mr Linehan’s wife Rosaleen.

Theatre and arts world

The Mass was celebrated by Canon Donal Linehan, first cousin of the deceased, assisted by Fr John Delany and Msgr Tom Stack. Readings were by Evanna Linehan, Dr Brigid Sheehy and Des Keogh, with music by Cathal Synnott, Oonagh Keogh, Ellen Cranitch, and Conor Linehan on piano.

Mementoes presented by Mr Linehan’s grandchildren before the Mass included scripts of the revue Glory Be and the musical Mary Makebelieve, his novel Under the Durian Tree and a cricket ball.

After the Mass members of the Cavaliers Cricket Club, the theatre world’s cricket club of which Mr Linehan was president for many years, formed a guard of honour as his wicker coffin was carried from the church.

Chief mourners were his wife Rosaleen and their children Hugh, Evanna, Fergus and Conor. The large congregation included a cross section of people from the theatre and arts world generally as well as very many former and current colleagues at The Irish Times.

In attendance were playwrights Frank McGuinness and Bernard Farrell, poet Theo Dorgan, authors Jennifer Johnston and Paul Howard, former Press Ombudsman John Horgan, former Gate theatre artistic director Michael Colgan, his successor Selina Cartmell, Marie Rooney, impresario John McColgan, producer Lelia Doolan and costume designer Joan Bergin.

Also present were Irish Times editor Kevin O’Sullivan, trade unionist Des Geraghty, Olive Braiden, Séamus Hosey, Brendan Balfe, Rev Chris Hudson, Tony Ó Dálaigh, Mark O’Regan, Susannah de Wrixon, Stephen Brennan, Jane Brennan, Michael James Ford, Gareth Keogh, Jonathan White and Christopher Fitzsimons.