Death of John McGahern


Madam, - Since I first started reading The Irish Times in the late 1950s, it has been a thoughtful and consistent supporter of Irish literature and writers, banned or otherwise.

Last Saturday's Editorial and the pages in tribute to John McGahern were a moving reminder of that proud tradition. - Yours, etc,

BRENDAN LYNCH, Mid Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7.

Madam, - I join Fintan O'Toole in mourning the passing of John McGahern (Weekend, April 1st), but I fear that his emotions have outpaced his common sense.

The "lock-picker" did not "change Ireland simply by describing it" and it is questionable whether he contributed in any way "to alter Ireland's sense of reality".

McGahern wrote powerful stories which were widely read but his impact on Irish society was limited by the size of his audience. The "reading public" is not a huge segment of the population. To most people McGahern was a respected, but unread, literary name and to many he was a "who?".

John McGahern would be acutely embarrassed by hyperbole. His writings will always be with us. Let us speak softly and wistfully about this lovely man. - Yours, etc,

KEVIN HEALY, Hampstead Avenue, Dublin 9.

Madam, - Am I alone in thinking that RTÉ overdid its coverage on John McGahern's passing. I heard The Lanes of Leitrim four times on Friday in news programmes alone. A more fitting tribute would have been to emulate the writer's economy of language; less is more.

Contrast this with the wonderful piece "Picking the lock of family secrets", by Fintan O'Toole last Saturday, which gets to the essence of the man and his rich, insightful legacy of literature. - Yours, etc,

MARGARET GOODE, Ardfallen Road, Douglas, Cork.

Madam, - Declan Kiberd's fine article on John McGahern was a tribute to an engaged writer in an era of great change. But it also struck me as a testimonial to the importance of primary school teachers. He writes of three with esteem: McGahern, Donnchadh Ó Céilleachair, and Tom Jordan.

There is a lot of talk these days about child care, and we have recently been reminded that teachers have tougher and tougher challenges in the classroom. Shouldn't it be essential to elevate the role and status of our teachers, secondary as well as primary?

How can we make teaching attractive to gifted and creative young people, and how can we continue to support them in changing times?

Alas, McGahern was forced out of teaching, though he seemed glad of that in later days when he had realised his potential to be a great writer.

Of course, he played on a national and international stage then, but would he have received such attention and praise even locally if he had stayed on as a brilliant primary teacher? - Yours, etc,

PATRICK LYDON, Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Madam, - People throughout Ireland were deeply saddened by the passing of John McGahern but those of us from Co Leitrim will always remember him with special respect and affection.

Allow me to congratulate The Irish Times on being one of the very few publications that consistently got his childhood location correct.

His father was the sergeant in Cootehall, on the Leitrim-Roscommon border and not in Cootehill, Co Cavan. The confusion is not a little ironic in that Cootehill was the home town of the late Archbishop McQuaid.

I like to think that John McGahern and Dr McQuaid - who both had a mischievous sense of humour - are quietly chuckling at the confusion. - Yours, etc,

PETER CANNING, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin.