Donal Musgrave, a widely respected journalist and news editor, has died in Cork after a long illness. He was 78.
The second son of two boys born to Máiréad (née Foley) and Harry Musgrave, of Newcastle West, Co Limerick, he was a brilliant and highly regarded journalist who worked mainly in print, starting out as a journalist in London’s Fleet Street in the early 1960s.
His career began with a series of articles on the homeless, which he wrote for the Catholic Herald, spending a week living rough in the city, making calls from a phone box on the street to update the editor on his story.
He worked mainly with Irish newspapers - The Irish Press in London and Dublin, The Irish Times as the Cork-based Munster Correspondent, The Sunday Tribune, and the Irish Examiner as well as the Echo.
He covered news and current affairs - politics, energy, the environment- and was a former news editor and chief leader writer of the Examiner. He covered the Synod of Bishops in Rome, the Biafran War in Nigeria, the Aberfan coal tip disaster in Wales, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the first Irish trade mission to China in 1978.
Closer to home, he covered the Air India disaster off the Cork coast, and he wrote extensively on Gulf Oil and Bantry Bay, including the numerous oil spillages and the final tragedy of the Betelgeuse explosion. He covered the Claudia Gun Running story in Co Waterford and the famine in Biafra.
He married Shirley Tait in London in November 1967. They moved to Dublin but he later wrote that their dream was to buy a cottage by water within a quarter of an hour of a city and that this elusive wish lay partly behind his career move from Dublin to Cork in 1969 after he and Shirley happened upon Coolyduff Cottage on the banks of the Lee.
His presence as news editor in the Examiner is recalled by many as measured, brilliant and always clear-sighted. His tenure on the Examiner newsdesk was highly valued by reporters where his sharp news sense was always to the fore. He was an important mentor to many up-and-coming reporters, like his own uncle, the journalist and deputy editor of the Irish Times, Donal Foley, had been to him.
As a young boy, he attended Blackrock College, Coláiste na Rinne and later Maynooth College. He was a gifted scholar but he is still remembered also as a skilled footballer who played with the Gaeltacht team of An Rinn, in the year 1962 when they won the county junior championship, scoring a crucial goal in a game against the Bally Rovers on their way to the final. He was a passionate angler also going to Mayo to fish the Owenmore at Bangor Erris each year over many decades.
After retirement, he continued to work, penning obituaries for the Irish Times and doing leaders for the Examiner. However, in May 2017, he wrote about the onset of the debilitating Parkinson’s Disease, which was to claim him. “Having written thousands of news stories and feature articles in 54 years of journalism, typing rapidly with just two fingers, imagine the shock of suddenly noticing a tremor in my hands.” For a period he used speech recognition software but the impact of the disease on his life was dramatic.
Donal is survived by his wife, Shirley, his daughter Katie, his son Darragh, his son-in-law Paul Galligan, his daughter-in-law Emer Maher, his five grandsons – Oisín, Ronan, Fionn, Aaron and Cian, and his many cousins and extended family.