The death of Mr John R. P. Hayden in Llandyrnog, Denbigh, North Wales, recalls the strength and influence of family weekly newspapers in Ireland. He was son of the late John P. Hayden, a prominent Parnellite MP, and founder of the Westmeath Examiner, in 1882, at the age of 18 years.
On John P.'s death in 1954, after being for 72 years both proprietor and editor of the Westmeath Examiner, his son, John, took over the reorganisation of the newspaper and printing works in Mullingar.
As chairman of the board, he presided at the centenary function in Mullingar and in 1992 wrote the address of welcome to President Robinson when she opened the new and extended Westmeath Examiner premises in Mullingar and started up the new full-colour web newspaper printing press. John Hayden described it as the finest day in the whole history of the Examiner. Well he might do so, because it marked a new era of progress, and the installation of the most modern of printing technology.
John Hayden's death marks the culmination of a period of 115 years of a continuous father-and-son control of the midland's newspaper. Also, over that period of 115 years, there have been only two editors of the Examiner. In all that time, the paper experienced good times and controversial times. Because of a John P. Hayden dispute with Dr Nulty, Bishop of Meath, over the location of a source for the Mullingar water supply (coinciding with the Parnell divorce controversy), it was deemed to be a mortal sin to read the newspaper. Many priests and religious took it into their rooms surreptitiously under their cloaks - and the paper survived.
In more recent times, one of its journalists broke the Paddy Donegan "thundering disgrace" story, which led to the resignation of the late Cearbhall O Dalaigh as President of Ireland.
The late John Hayden was an officer with the Ninth Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and served in Madagascar and Burma during the second World War. He joined the stockbroking firm of Tilney Parr and Rae in Liverpool, and spent many years promoting the business of that very successful company.
A shrewd and intelligent businessman, his direction of the Westmeath Examiner was a major factor in the progress of that newspaper. As a younger man, he graduated from Trinity College, with a degree in law. He was a prominent member of the Trinity crew which won several boating honours back in the 1930s, and as an amateur, he rode at many race meetings throughout Ireland.
He loved the Westmeath lakes, and spent many happy days as an angler there. A very dignified man, he was always noted for his generous spirit. His stature and standing were commanding, and his approach always caring and kindly. He made his mark in Ireland's family local newspaper history. He was a committed communicator and a successful businessman. His loss will be deeply felt among the people in the hills of North Wales and the rolling plains of Westmeath.
Mr Hayden is survived by his wife Priscilla, and other relatives.