Liam O'Connor: An Appreciation

IN THE MAGAZINE Arena, which lit up the 1960s literary scene, Liam O’Connor was described as a non-practising Buddhist

IN THE MAGAZINE Arena, which lit up the 1960s literary scene, Liam O'Connor was described as a non-practising Buddhist. That was probably written by James Liddy, who edited Arenawith him and Michael Hartnett. James could hit the mark with a throwaway line: Liam was unorthodox, even in his peacefulness.

He came from Arklow (he was born there in 1936), and so was a neighbour of James who lived in Coolgreaney, down the road. His father was a butcher – Liam was a vegetarian. Other boys went out to play – Liam read in his room. Most are straight – he was gay. There seems to have been no fuss in his being different. He stood out at school, and, encouraged by his teacher, went to work in the Arklow Pottery, then an important business, competing with the big English firms.

He was sent to study design in Stafford, then in Finland. But Dublin was where he settled in the end, setting up a graphic studio of his own.

With James Liddy he produced fringe books of the first standard.


Dickie Reardon's Forty Days in a Greek Coolercame from their Kerr's Pink press. He designed too for Gallery: the cover of Pearse Hutchinson's The Frost is All Overhas his mark. Then there were the broadsheets, pamphlets, little magazines, as well as his bread-and-butter work.

At his funeral it was remarked that though he was small in stature, everyone looked up to him. He had had to work for his education, so he took it seriously. That and his reflectiveness gave him an original authority. His opinion on a painting or a book was always worthwhile.

He put into words what reviewers left out. To meet him on his evening shopping walk – his beat began at Pembroke Street, where he lived for 30 years – and stand for 10 minutes talking always left one feeling well.

He had several quiet private lives, was a formidable chess player, a regular not just in Grogans but in other bars. There was always a surprise. He was calligrapher to the Law Society; the Gaelic script he devised was used as a computer font. It turned out that he designed celebrity invitations, that those for Kerry Katona's wedding found their way into Hello!Like many who live alone, and are self sufficient, he had an ageless look. No one could have guessed he was 74. He will be missed as a quiet presence in civilised Dublin. – AK