John Feeney

Criticism


Life
b. Co. Roscommon; son of John Kevin Feeney, head of Coombe Hospital (1950-56); brought up on Temple Rd., and ed. at Gonzaga Coll., Dublin; grad. UCD (English); became editor of Catholic Standard; later wrote for the Evening Herald as a columnist; published stories in Irish Press “New Writing”, ed. David Marcus; author of a critical essay on John Charles McQuaid (1974);
 

he died tragically with Kevin Marron and seven others on 13 Nov. 1984 when the private airplane in which he was travelling to France in the course of an annual ‘race’ to bring the first Boujolais Noveau to Ireland crashed nr. Bournemouth, overladen with luggage; a son Chekhov Feeney is also a journalist; his br. Peter was brother head of of RTÉ’s Public Affairs policy; another br. Kevin is a prominent barrister.

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Works
Warm Friday (Dublin: Anna Livia 1974), 148pp.; John Charles McQuaid: The Man and the Mask (Dublin: Mercier Press 1974), [6], 88pp.; also contrib. to Leonard’s Last Book (Enniskerry: Egotist Press 1978), 110pp. [essays; vide Hugh Leonard].

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Criticism
John Boland, ‘Tribute to doomed flight beset by heavy baggage’, in Irish Independent (4 Aug. 2007) [available online; accessed 10.10.2009].

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Commentary
Maurice Harmon, ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi, eds., The Irish Short Story (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘John Feeney’s characters are isolated - from home, from loved ones - in a hostile world of institutions, urban ugliness and debased values. They suffer in an alien environment, like the girl in “Dirty, Dirty”, they inhabit a private mental world that their colleagues will not even try to understand, like the priest in “Mao Dies”. Feeney’s stories sometimes rely on a drastic bringing together of the strange and the familiar, the outlandish and the conventional. In “Scourge of the Reds” he formulates a drastic juxtaposition of the personal and the cataclysmic through the figure of Fr. Flood, whose personal sexual torment is related through images of plague to the advance of the menace of Communism.’ (p.72.)

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Dermot Keogh, ‘Towards a Biography of an Archibishop’, in Studies: Quarterly Irish Studies Review [S.J.] (Winter 1998): ‘The late John Feeney, a friend and a contemporary at UCD, published in 1974 John Charles McQuaid - The Man and the Mask. This critical essay on the archbishop was defective from a scholarly point of view. The author worked without archives and based most of his research on published accounts and interviews. But for all its faults, it is not a book without its insights and merits. He presents McQuaid as living outside his time but as a “first class bishop of the old school” who, had he lived fifty years earlier “would have no critics worth speaking of and would hardly be remembered today except by those who benefited from his quiet, personal charity” [pp.78/9]. / Feeney also evaluates his role in a negative light under the headings “schoolteacher” and “medievalist”. Yet, he was also for Feeney a Christian and “a diligent, sincere and absolutely honest man who did his duty as he saw it.” [p.79] Feeney hinted in his highly critical essay on McQuaid that there was much left to understand and discover about the archbishop. / Feeney would have been the first to admit that his essay was more the work of a journalist than that of a trained historian which, of course, he was. He began his book at the time of the archbishop’s retirement. He had been a stern critic of McQuaid as a student and that was evident in his manuscript. But his criticism emanated from a deep respect for the historical role played by the archbishop. Feeney sought to realise rapid change in the post-McQuaid church in Dublin. His biography was written very much in the mould of the commentator/activist.

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The Crash: The victims of the fatal plane crash which killed John Feeney included Francois Schelbaum, the restaurant manager at the Sands hotel in Portmarnock, owned by Pat Gibbons, owner-founder of Zhivago Night Club and Jules, where the new wine was destined to be sold; Cormac Cassidy of Cassidy wines; Arigo Chichi who owned Chichi’s restaurant in Sallynoggin; and the pilot Captain Jack Walsh. The journalist John Boland, an Evening Herald college of Feeney and later a distinguished RTE broadcaster, narrowly escaped since he had been invited but was ultimately unable to travel. He suffered the tragic death of his son, a successful columnist-and TV prodigy, some years later.

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Namesake: Capt. John M. Feeney, unrelated, was founder-proprieter of the Mercier Press, Cork.

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