In praise of Maureen Fox

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Tomorrow (Saturday, April 25) Tanya Schleich will be selling copies of her book Maureeen Fox: An Extraordinary Woman, a tribute to her mother, a former Cork Examiner journalist, at the Cork Book Festival at the Marquee on the Grand Parade in Cork from 11 am.

It was thanks to Maureen Fox that I first found the courage to try to meet girls. She ran a personal section on her woman’s page and I approached her a couple of times to respond to a few girls. I did meet a few, and while the encounters came to nothing, they gave me a little courage to make an effort to connect with others. Maureen, of course, was the soul of discretion in such matters. You could trust her not to say anything in a newsroom where gossip thrived. That ability to hold a confidence was one of the things that I liked about Maureen who died In December 2010.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to know Maureen better because from Tanya’s book, which includes some of her writings, and many tributes from friends in the world of theatre and journalism, you can glean how much she meant to people and how she was the champion of the underdog. She was full of common sense, but also a powerful voice for social change. She loved the theatre, and was involved in several productions.

Maureen was unusual in the newsroom back in the 1970s – one of a very few female reporters – none of the subs were female. She was also a divorcee with a daughter Tanya she sometimes brought into the office. Maureen had an infectious laugh, was always impeccably dressed, and had a warm smile. It was a male dominion, but Maureen was well able to survive and even laughed at her own expense sometimes. Pretty soon you could see she enjoyed the respect of her colleagues, and in her weekly column and later the Midweek page she began to range beyond the usual female subjects such as cookery and fashion. She conveyed humour and deep concern whenever she wrote, and God help those who ignored her campaigns.

In “Midweek is spreading its wings” in 1983 she described her journalism best: “I have been Woman’s editor for the past 13 years: a lot has changed in that relatively short time. I remember that the word ‘contraception’ was rarely used in articles when I first began! We all agreed that it was difficult to encapsulate exactly what our main interests were in the writing field. Certainly I am always eager to write on legal equality between men and women, and the numerous anomalies that still remain in our society. Also, the elderly and those on their own who are facing very real emotional and financial problems, conservation and of course regular readers of this page will already know that I’m no lover of blood sports. But as Liz (Doran), Evelyn (Ring) and Rose (Costello) say, we are all bursting with energy and ready to tackle anything that comes our way.” And they were.

We all thought she was mad when her dog Ponsoby started ‘writing’ a column. What’s the world coming to we thought! Of course Maureen had tapped into a rich vein and Ponsonby was soon getting more mail than anyone.

What struck me most when reading the book was what a good writer she was and what a shame I didn’t appreciate her enough while she was there.

So, if you’re in Cork tomorrow morning, look for Tanya, say hello and buy the book.

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