Advertiser founder was 'radically optimistic of the possibilities of life,' says President Higgins

I think it must have been in the year 1967, on a visit to O’Gorman’s Printing House which was an extension of the famous O’Gorman Bookshop, that I had a discussion with an urbane man whom I think must have been Ronnie O’Gorman’s uncle. Over the course of that visit, a discussion took place on whether there was room for a second newspaper in Galway.

Mr O’Gorman rather dramatically opened a drawer at the side of his desk and said ‘This is what’s coming’, laying out in front of me a set of freesheets from London, and he added with what I recall was some enthusiasm, ‘and we have the right person coming home to make it all happen!’. Thus, the imminent arrival of Ronnie O’Gorman was foretold.

Nobody could be disappointed when he came. In appearance, he might have been just off the set of a play. Full of energy, he immediately became a central part of the arts community and announcements on the arts could be assured of a prominent place in the new Galway Advertiser. More than that, its editor would become an activist for what would become the Galway Arts Festival.

Ronnie was part of a seismic shift in civic culture in Galway. All of this was achieved with what was a discernible commitment to Galway past and present. Not only had the contemporary arts now an advocate and activist – for you never knew when he was going to take part in something – but so did Galway’s heritage, Galway in pictures and every aspect of a city of which Benedict Kiely had written of as ‘having water as its essence’.

Ronnie was committed to Galway and its region, its full context past and present. He was, for example, among those who founded initiatives to pay appropriate tribute to Lady Gregory – Coole Park and the flood-threatened Thoor Ballylee which was the Yeats abode.

The combination of this interest with a regular production from Tom Kenny’s archives meant that the paper became a weekly part of Galway life. One that could appeal to all sections of the Galway population.

As a friend I recall how, whenever I met him, he was so radically optimistic of the possibilities of life, be it personal or shared. There was something simply irrepressible about him and this is one of the many lovable qualities we will all miss about a person who came home to his roots to make an unforgettable contribution.”


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