Born: July 12th, 1950
Died: October 3rd, 2023
Martin McLoone, a pioneer in the study of film and television in Ireland, grew up in a large, close-knit family in Derry’s Creggan Estate, overlooking the Bogside and just a few miles across fields to the Donegal border.
Many Derry women in the 1960s worked in the city’s numerous shirt factories, but jobs for men were scarce. Martin’s father, John, worked in the BSR factory, which made record turntables, but was invalided out with arthritis in his early 40s.
For the McLoone children, as for many other working class families, the surest way out of long-term unemployment lay in education.
Martin attended St Columb’s College and then UCD, where he studied English and history. Northern students at that time were in receipt of grants which many poorer Southerners regarded as overly generous. Nevertheless, free-spending habits meant that the money didn’t always last till the end of term. In such circumstances, Martin was wont to quote one of his literary heroes, Wilkins Micawber, who coasted happily through life and its difficulties fortified by his firm belief that “something would turn up”. There was, indeed, something large and Dickensian in the McLoone personality even at 20 or 21. Even those who did not know him knew him to see: he was hard to miss, with his shock of red hair, buckskin cowboy jacket, or, in winter, massive army surplus greatcoat. In his joyful and exuberant company, the periods between outbreaks of laughter tended to be short.
For Martin and some of his friends, more time at UCD may have been spent in the bar discussing books than in the library reading them. His degree, in 1973, was what we called “solid but not spectacular”. He expressed surprise, however, to have come out as well as he did, speculating ruefully on what might have happened had he worked harder. A putative academic path could have remained just a “might-have-been”, but opportunity and an abundance of ability would eventually dictate otherwise.
Teaching in a London secondary school in the later 1970s Martin offered to give classes in the new subject of media studies and when the Irish Film Institute, in 1980, appointed its first education officer, he was considered to be eminently qualified for the role and moved back to Dublin.
In the following year he met Cindy Milner, a young Canadian art student on a gap year, who was to become his wife. In 1984 he published his first book, an edited essay collection on television in Irish society. This was followed over the years by three more, on film and film history and on Irish rock music.
In 1986 he was appointed to a post in film and media studies at Ulster University, where his career prospered, with him becoming head of school and eventually professor.
His human warmth and clarity of exposition endeared him to generations of colleagues and students.
A lifelong socialist, or, as he put it himself, a left-wing social democrat, he was in his teens a canvasser for Eamonn McCann, in Dublin in the 1980s a member of Jim Kemmy’s Democratic Socialist Party and, throughout his life, a supporter of the left wing of the British Labour Party.
He is survived by Cindy, his daughters Katie, Maeve and Gráinne, his mother, Gretta, and nine siblings.