Where editors live a long working life

 

They used to say that only tail-gunners and test pilots had a shorter working life than newspaper editors.

However, the Westmeath Examiner in Mullingar can boast a truly remarkable record, because it has had only three editors in the past 118 years.

When Mr David O'Riordan took over editorship of the newspaper at the end of last year, he was handed the reins by Editor No 2, Mr Nicholas Nally.

The Westmeath Examiner was founded by John P. Hayden, aged 18, in 1882. He edited the paper until he died in 1954, well into his 90s.

The young man who took over that year was Nicholas Nally, and he has edited the paper for the last 55 .

Last November he decided to step down and handed over to David, who has worked it out that he will have to live to be 106 to match the first editor's record..

"I worked out on my calculator last week that to beat John Hayden's record I will have to be in this chair for 72 years," he laughed.

"I was telling my predecessor, Nicholas Nally, only the other day that I am not sure if people have fully accepted that he was once editor of this newspaper for over 50 years," he said.

"I had to ask the question because I had just opened a letter which was addressed to Mr John P. Hayden, Editor of the Westmeath Examiner," he said.

He said the first editor had been an MP in the House of Commons, where he succeeded his brother in 1897 as a Home Ruler who stood by Parnell until the end.

David, who was born in Stillorgan, Co Dublin, and has been a journalist since 1993, has no intention of going into politics, even though he is a graduate of history and politics from University College Dublin.

He changed career at the age of 28, after five years in banking in London where he worked as a foreign exchange dealer for a time.

"That was a useful part of my life and prepared me for journalism because it taught me all about pressure and deadlines," he said.

While in London he began to file copy to the Independent group in Dublin and then committed himself to the business by joining two British provincial papers.

"For a time I worked on the Yorkshire Post and later on the Derby Evening Telegraph, where I caught up on the technologies of the newspaper business," he said.

Back home, David went to work on the business desk of Ireland on Sunday, which he left to edit Business Contact, the magazine of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

Now located in Mullingar, he is astonished at the beauty of the county, especially the lakes, which are virtually unknown to people in Dublin.

"I have Westmeath relatives so I was somewhat familiar with the county, but the longer I am here I keep turning up more and more beautiful places I knew nothing about," he said.

Mullingar, with its population of 18,000 is growing daily, and he said it was now truly a dormitory town for Dublin, with hundreds of people travelling to work daily.

"Recently the number of buses travelling daily have been increased to seven and they are needed because we are still nearly two hours from Dublin by rail," he said.

He said most people found this unacceptable and were looking for an improved motorway link with the capital and want the rail link with Athlone re-established.

"The city is moving out to meet us, and it is estimated that Kinnegad will soon become the third-largest town in the county after Athlone and Mullingar in a short number of years," he said.

"It is an exciting time to be here and I am looking forward to editing this paper until I am well into my 90s," he joked.