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Saturday, 26th September 2020

Farewell to Brian Conyngham, a good friend and a true Gentleman

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Brian Conyngham is presented with an award by Mayor Frank Godfrey in 2019 in recognition of his involvement in community affairs including the arts, the environment, job creation, tourism, multiculturalism and residents associations.

The death yesterday of my friend and former work colleague Brian Conyngham was not altogether unexpected, he had been ill for some time but when the news arrives it’s always a shock.

Brian and I were close for many years from when he was the editor of the Drogheda Independent and I a lowly freelance. He was a newspaper man through and through and also a true gentleman.

Brian was as far from the public image of the stressed-out newspaper editor as it is possible to get. Bullying and shouting at junior reporters would have been anathema to him, he was a genuine, caring person who encouraged young talent where he saw it and nurtured it when it was not yet developed.

Panicking was not his style and he never, ever, missed a deadline. When stress levels rose and nerves became taught he remained calm.

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He was a prodigious editor who could and often did take the copy of even the most inexperienced reporters and show them how to turn it into a story that they could be proud to see their by-line under.

Many people working in the Irish media today owe Brian a debt of gratitude for showing them what makes a good article, he imbued in his reporters the understanding of how important a job reporting the news is and how crucial it is to get the facts straight.

He and I also worked together at the Local News and when that finally folded, on a paper we founded called The Boynesider which was Drogheda’s first free newspaper.

The Boynesider didn’t last very long either but we had a lot of fun together trying to make a go of it and I can still see him smiling across the only desk in the office, through a cloud of blue smoke from his pipe.

We shared many things besides a desk though, including a love of Africa. I have worked in several African countries and he was born in Rhodesia, which is now called Zimbabwe, and we would often talk about the sad fate that befell the country of his birth at the hands of the dictator Robert Mugabe.

Brian was much more than a good journalist though, he was a really good person and an integral part of the Drogheda community. For decades he and the love of his life Phil were involved in numerous community groups, far too many to mention. As a result, they were never far from whatever was happening in the town.

Brian’s love of community was not confined to the local community either and he was one of the leading figures at the founding of Culture Connect, an organisation that extends the hand of friendship and support to people moving to this area from around the world.

It was probably this love of community and belief in equality that inspired him to become a member of the Baháʼí Faith community in Drogheda who believe in the value of all religions, and strive for the unity of all people.

Brian and Phil shared a huge love of music and different cultures from around the world which culminated in them running the hugely successful Drogheda Samba Festival for 21 years. The music only stopped when the funding finally ran dry.

The town of Drogheda is a poorer place for his passing. We can only hope that when the good days return and we move into a post pandemic time, there will be drumming on the streets of Drogheda once again.

Sincere sympathies to Phil and to Colm and Gerrard. These are dark days for you but you can hold your heads high and celebrate the life of a truly good man.

Farewell Brian, you’ll be sorely missed, I look forward to hearing the beat of the Samba drums parading in West Street in your honour at some time in the not too distant future.

This article was written by Andy Spearman

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