From cub reporting to finding the love of my life: a look back on 40 years at the Leader

Henry Bauress, who retired on February 8 after four decades in journalism, reflects on his career

Leinster Leader reporter

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From cub reporting to finding the love of my life: a look back on 40 years at the Leader

Henry Bauress on his last day at work

XX

Earlier this month, I formally hung up my boots on full-time paid journalism, most of it with the Leinster Leader newspaper. I write that carefully because curiosity and a love of writing are in the blood and will continue to be so in the period I will loosely call ‘retirement’.

The opportunity and expectation that I would not have to wear a shirt and tie was not low on my priorities as I considered my future as a youth.

I joined the Leinster Leader in 1980, the year the paper celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding, starting work there on October 14.

Born in Dublin in 1956 to Dubliner, Harry, the Deputy Controller of the Irish Patents Office until his death in 1972; and Brid, a Wexford native who trained as a psychiatric nurse, I lived a happy life off Stillorgan road, beside the former Montrose Hotel, along with my only sibling, Paul.

I started school, at the age of 4, at Miss Eileen Shine’s — she was an aunt of the singer Brendan Shine who ran a small private school — before heading to Willow Park and on to Blackrock College.

A modest Leaving Cert led me to repeat that exam in the College of Commerce, Rathmines, after which I was accepted into the School of Journalism course from 1975-79, under the direction of RTÉ broadcaster, Sean Egan.

Some class colleagues there included Barbara Sheridan, editor of the Kildare Nationalist; RTÉ’s Tommie Gorman; the late Paul Drury, an editor with the Irish Mail group; Maurice Gubbins, editor of the Evening Echo; and Mary Morrissy, whose work includes three novels, Mother of Pearl, The Pretender and The Rising of Bella Casey.

Well-known Kildare journalist Jane Mullins, and former RTÉ Agriculture correspondent, Joe O’Brien, were in the class ahead of us.

After some low-earning freelance work in the summer of 1977, Sean Egan called me to say there was a vacancy as a journalist at the Dungarvan Observer in county Waterford, run by Paddy Lynch and family.

This was my second newspaper as I had trained for two months at the Westmeath Examiner office in Mullingar, under the direction of editor, Nicholas Nally, an enjoyable experience.

A colleague was Don Lavery, who was on hand to report Minister for Defence Paddy Donegan describing the then President of Ireland President Cearbhall O Dalaigh as ‘a thundering disgrace’ — which led to the latter’s resignation.

Fully expecting to be the tea boy, it quickly emerged that I was the only journalist and Paddy and the lads were letting me off the leash to work greatly on my own initiative.

They very quickly put me on the senior wage rate set down by and requested by the National Union of Journalists, on whose Irish Executive Council I was to serve for a number of years.

Around September 1980, though I loved Dungarvan and many in it, I felt it was time to move closer to Dublin, where it was all supposed to be happening and a lot of it was.

Hired by the Leinster Leader, then a broadsheet paper, I had presumed a role in Naas, where the late Bill Britton was then the managing director of the Williams family-owned operation — but I was asked to go to Edenderry, or the “colonies,” as I named it.

I liked Edenderry and the nice part of the job was that I was able to and required to work from home.

As in Dungarvan, I was let get on with it by editor, Senan Carroll, an easy going Clare man.

Work, sport and friendships amalgamated many times.

I was still using the manual typewriter my parents had given me as a gift when I was 15, after indicating a desire for journalism.

I became great friends with the late Kevin Farrell, of the Offaly Topic and Leinster Express. Kevin did a lot of work for the Star and the Sunday World. I miss him a lot. We had some great laughs together.

I first met my Leader friend and colleague, Paul O’Meara, in that area when he was working with the Offaly Topic.

Five years were spent in Edenderry until 1985, covering the town itself, and outlying areas, such as Rhode, Clonbullogue, Walsh Island and Rathangan.

Once a week I headed to the town and got to know folks like Leo Conway, the late John Fullam, and the Forde family, among many others.

I was also fortunate to cover the Offaly hurlers and footballers over those years, and was a regular attendee at Croke Park, including for the All Ireland hurling and football wins in the early 1980s.

A very fruitful source of news was McCormack’s pub in Edenderry, particularly, on weekend nights.

As one pint led to the next, potential stories rolled off the tongues and citizens did their duties to tip off the press, inadvertently or otherwise.

As a result, Monday was often quite busy phoning (on the landline) various parties for responses.

I was in the same pub when the late Minister for Defence, Paddy Power, spoke at a Fianna Fail meeting during the Falklands War and asked the British to get out of this little country of ours, Ireland. Kevin Farrell was also present.

I shared the copy with the Irish Times and Kevin with the Irish Independent and others. I awoke the next morning to hear on the RTÉ radio news that my very brief quote of Paddy’s words had been reported in the New York Times.

At this time, I got to know many Kildare sports people after starting to write up reports of soccer, rugby and golf reports on a Sunday evening, usually after phoning both clubs in a game.

The Edenderry years also coincided with the Malcolm McArthur murder cases and as the death of a local man, Donal Dunne, who had met McArthur with a view to selling a gun.

Later reports said McArthur had hung around The Harbour area in Edenderry, which was where I was living in a ground floor flat overlooking the canal.

Apart from anything else, it was the start of a terrible time for the family of Mr Dunne, whose death was not formally attributed to McArthur

I recall the late Cllr Jim Flanagan of Edenderry Town Commissioners and Offaly County Council fame.

A one time wrestler, he once threw eggs at an unfortunate county manager during a council meeting.

Jim did not like small planes flying near him and the Irish Parachute Club was located very close to his home, formerly a school building.

Between 1981 and 1985, he campaigned against it relentlessly.

Some time into the controversy I was taken on a flight by the club, as part of my reporting on its side of the story.

I wrote what I thought was a balanced article for the Leinster Leader, bearing very much in mind that if parachutists chose to act as dangerously as Jim believed, they would be most likely the first victims of their own mistakes.

Jim argued publicly the wool had been pulled over my eyes.

At the following meeting of Offaly County Council, in a reference to my proud piece of writing, Jim told the gathering that the editor of the Leinster Leader “should come down here and see things for himself instead of sending a boy up in a plane with goggles on”.

In 1985, the Leader asked me to move to Kildare town to cover that area as well as some of the Edenderry beats and I did so for three years.

Kildare was different to Edenderry.

The latter had some historic roots in migrants who came from elsewhere to work the bogs in the 1940s and 50s. It was to a great extent the go to-town for west Kildare areas.

Kildare town had a different feel — racing and military traditions abounded.

It was there I made a resolution to put a halt to what was a relatively mild amount of gambling on horses.

I would bump into racing folk in the local hostels from the time and on one occasion a more senior stable hand recommended a certain horse, now surely in the heaven’s stable, as a good investment.

I shelled out, with great hope, a relatively small sum at the local bookmakers.

Alas, my four-legged pal was not up to it on the day and so began a successful effort to lower to almost zero my investment in these matters. To this day I am a dry racing gambler.

Another memorable incident in those years was when I gave a lift to a woman in Newbridge as I was driving back to Kildare town one sunny afternoon.

A number of people were standing with thumbs out on the side of the road and in the days when giving someone a lift was more normal, I stopped.

A lady made a beeline for the car and hopped into the front passenger seat.

There was, as the gardaí might say in evidence, a strong smell of drink.

Nothing wrong with that in itself, but things started to veer off course when she, completely out of the blue, accused me of abusing her sister in Portlaoise.

She snatched the miraculous medal of not just any regular saint, but the Virgin Mary herself, which was dangling with a light blue string, off the front mirror.

A number of unpleasant thoughts started to run through me, including ending up banged up for sexual assault.

I told her it would be best if we both dropped into Kildare garda station so she could report the matter.

As I came to a halt on the garda station grounds, she stepped out of the car and started walking up towards the square.

I explained to the desk garda inside that a woman had taken my miraculous medal and very quickly two gardaí and myself hot footed it up the road to try and catch her. We did.

On the way back for the interview, she would not walk beside me, calling me that ‘that dirtbag’.

At the station I took a seat and my travelling companion was taken inside for an interview.

After a little while, I heard, from another corridor, the voice of then Detective Garda Tim Kennedy, asking one of his colleagues: “What fecking eejit picked her up?”

I was then told that Tim was their PRO man — ie he dealt with those selling sexual services.

I was later handed the blue stringed medallion which had adorned the front of my Volkswagen Beetle, and told: “We won’t tell you where we found this.”

In the final quarter of 1988, the late managing director, Bill Ralph, asked me to go to Leixlip.

Intel Ireland was just starting there and I have no doubt that it helped change part of Irish business culture.

Another big story then was one of the early campaigns against water charges.

The developments at Weston Aerodrome stand out as do meeting the late legendary airman, Darby Kennedy.

Leixlip Town Commissioners came into being around this time.

There was plenty to get my teeth into story wise — planning issues, among them — and, again, working from home in River Forest in Leixlip, happenings in Celbridge, Maynooth and even further flung mythologies, kept me busy.

This included the joy of reporting on rugby at MU Barnhall in Parsonstown.

Kildare VEC (now KWETB) adult education section enabled me to get an economics degree from University of London via Coláiste Chiarain Leixlip.

I also became a volunteer director of Leixlip & District Credit Union for nine years, all as either secretary and treasurer.

In the mid-2000 and I did an economic masters course at nearby Maynooth University and later took up the secretaryship of Leim an Bhradáin Housing Association, now merged into Clanmil.

Early in the Leixlip days, I interviewed Aida Best, a native of Pampanga in the Philippines, in her role as president of the Irish-Filipino Association in Ireland.

I married my soulmate, Aida, in Celbridge on September 8, 2018, with the aid of Fr Pat Egan and hundreds of family and friends.

Throughout my Leader career, a notable time came in December 2006.

The Leader had expanded from a single newspaper into a group by buy out; and in 2006, the Johnston Press group (JP) in the UK bought the group out for around €155 million, which, even in those Celtic Tiger boom times was thought to be a bit high.

Staff received a pay off from the previous owners, headed up by John McStay, more or less out of the blue. My own share was a decent €18,000 approx, translated to €11,000 after tax.

The financial crash came in 2008 and it appeared JP had over-borrowed. They tried to sell us as the banks pressured them but it seems that the best on offer was €60m in around April 2009.

The current owners, Iconic Newspapers, bought in at significantly less than that €60m asking price.

Journalism’s greatest gift has been the many great and kind people whom I got to know through both work and citizenship, in politics, courts and other community entities.

My sense is that, subject to health and sufficient faculties, my journalism gene will not be packed away in the attic as I would be dead if that happens.

My career saw me start with a manual typewriter, move to the electric typewriter and the fax machine, the email etc.

I also saw the move from metallic print fonts and away from the clack of large printing presses (under the eyes of the late Winnie Beresford in Dungarvan and Tony Ryan in what is now the separate Naas Printing establishment) to online publishing, where it is possible to make a complete fool of oneself, very quickly indeed, possibly in addition to being subject to a libel suit.

This is called progress and I hope the changes live up to that name, particularly when it comes to our democratic freedoms.

To this day I regularly write on paper with a fountain pen, handed down to me by my late father.

I have a sense that good journalism, and my friends and colleagues in that trade, need those in the wider community who cherish good journalism, which is one of the safety guards for democracy and a safer and fairer life for all.

I hope I have made some contribution to that but I am conscious that others have made much more.

The current editor, Laura Coates, continues the battle — Covid-19 has knocked us hard — to maintain the Leinster Leader standard in the 21st century, along with colleagues, sports editor legend, Tommy Callaghan, Paul O’Meara, Senan Hogan and Niamh O’Donoghue.

Recent colleagues who departed the Leader (and Kildare Now, which it took over) include Conor McHugh, Paula Campbell, Sarah Peppard, Rose Barrett O’Donoghue and Louise McCarthy.

We also relied on photographers and in recent years Tony Keane was such a reliable colleague until his retirement. Aishling Conway continues to snap.

Some journalists have had a tendency to turn up their collective noses at the difficult world of advertising/administration over the years, often forgetting that along with sales price, revenue from advertising has been a vital element of income. Anna, Cathryn, Lorna, Michael, Giselle, Theresa and many others were important.

Naas Courthouse, where I spent quite a lot of time in recent years, has been a source of work, but also good relationship with court staff, gardaí and the legal profession, all of whom continued to educate me up to now. As indeed have many of the defendants.

It has also been fun at times. They may not see the last of me.

I am conscious that Naas Courthouse was possibly the last building at which the late investigative journalist, the courageous Veronica Guerin, attended.

As she made her way back to Dublin that day from Naas she was murdered by a criminal gang.

She had given her life for her trade and her country.

I am so grateful for what journalism has given me, particularly what Waterford, Offaly, Kildare and Dublin have provided.

I did not have to wear a tie for most of the time and I would do it all again — even though Aida has since bought me some nice ties.