Echo has always been local, and loved by readers

To mark the 125th anniversary of the Evening Echo, Declan Hassett, editor of the Cork Evening Echo from 1976 to 1985 recalls his time at the helm
Echo has always been local, and loved by readers
Declan Hassett.  Picture Dan Linehan

I HAVE always thought of The Echo as the beloved ‘Corner Boy’ of the newspaper world. That is not to say its main street big sister The Examiner took the plaudits, as The Echo dealt with the ‘crumbs’.

No, quite definitely The Echo served its loyal and passionate readers well. They, the readers to this day, will tell you their day is not complete without a read of the paper.

No news items are too small to be fit for print, especially if it is ‘local’, and the great events of our times are recorded in its column inches also. So The Echo might not be keeping too sharp an eye on Russia, as the Skibbereen Eagle once posted, but affairs of state find their rightful place on The Echo’s pages. Certainly The Echo has always been local and loved.

I had the honour to act as editor of the Echo for nine years and would love to say I enjoyed every minute, but that would not be true. Being an editor is no walk in the park and I was glad in May 1985 to hand over to the late James F O’Sullivan, with whom I had worked on The Examiner Editorial for some 12 years.

When I moved to The Echo the late Cathal Henry was editor and he was a journalist and a man I greatly admired. I became Editor when Cathal moved to the News Desk.

Just like at the Examiner, I worked with a remarkable bunch of people in my time in The Echo. Forgive me if I just mention two: the late Walter McGrath, a man of integrity, decency and Christian dignity, and Crichton Healy, the most knowledgable and witty gentleman I have ever encountered.

Things were buoyant in Cork in the mid-1970s and The Echo flourished. But in the traditional industries, ‘safe’ jobs at Henry Ford and Dunlop would disappear. The Echo was always the working man’s paper and when the factory gates slammed shut the old order changeth. A captive market disappeared, it seemed almost overnight. Sales of the Echo would continue in the traditional way of shop and street. The Coliseum corner was the point of sale where the great Jack Lynch learned of the death of the maestro, the greatest hurler of all time, Christy Ring.

So the Evening Echo has gone about its business and continues to do so without any great fanfare, serving faithfully Cork’s own people. An evening paper based in the city has it’s own unique attraction, impact and importance for the community.

From The Echo, we learn of the highs and lows of life, a daily mark of existence in business and state bodies. There is still the lofty ambition of local councils but successive governments have greatly diminished their powers. Powers, as with newspapers, are best left local.

Thinking about the 125 years of the Echo brings to mind some of the momentous events in that period.

My mother, who was born in 1900, always told me everything changed in the second decade of the last century, from the loss of the Titanic to the outbreak of World War I and the commandeering of the GPO in Dublin in 1916; the cruel execution of its leaders; the withdrawal of British troops and ultimately, in 1922 the tragedy of the civil war, including the shooting dead of our hero Michael Collins.

My mother was right, everything changed, changed utterly, our freedom had exacted a price. How awful those years must have been when the global economy collapsed and World War II began in Europe. At home it was ‘The Emergency’ in the 1940s as another hero, Jack Lynch, was winning six All Ireland senior medals in a row. He would come home to his Cork in 1966 as the Real Taoiseach.

As a fledgling reporter in 1963, I stood on Patrick Street and watched a bronzed Adonis cavalcade by. It was of course John F Kennedy. Come November it was the darkest day in Dallas.

But Echo days are usually less dramatic than that; the Echo is your forever friend, keeping you in touch with the world, well, Cork. And long may this healthy relationship of reader and newspaper thrive.

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