Modest, profound and a man of faith
THE back page of the Catholic Herald will not be the same without Eamonn Andrews. How privileged we were to read his casual jottings, which were anything but casually prepared, and which appeared every week without fail.
Eamonn's column appeared last week, even though when you read his writings God had called him to his eternal rest. As always Eamonn had sent his copy for the column in good time, whether it was from Los Angeles, Dublin, London or his sick bed.
I wish I had a little of Eamonn's ability of writing and some of his professionalism to help me write about him. I feel only sadness thinking of him and his family.
You will by now have read, seen and heard many tributes, using a vocabulary and style I could not match. Alas, words are inadequate to recall a personal friendship. It has been said that he was a great broadcaster. He was much more. He was a great man, a devoted husband, a loving father.
I do not remember how I managed to persuade Eamonn in 1975 to start to write a weekly column in the Catholic Standard. I am sure it was not easy for Eamonn did not undertake anything lightly. He was a perfectionist, who rarely complained about other people's inadequacies. I think I must have persuaded him how much good such a column would do. Being goodness itself, he could not resist the challenge.
When the Catholic Standard, which circulates in Ireland, was partly merged with the Catholic Herald, Eamonn Andrews, the professional, was worried. How could he write for a readership on both sides of the Irish Sea and from what base, London or Dublin? Our readers will know how well he succeeded.
Eamonn took success in his stride, but far more remarkably he accepted disappointments without complaint.
Eamonn's faith and his family were the most important things in his life. He never paraded his religion, but he never made light of it. He was always helping the Church and his friends. His actions were never without thought, however trivial they might have seemed.
Long before he took up writing regularly in the Catholic Herald, when his home was in London's Chiswick, we were one day talking about the sales of the Catholic Herald. His church was sometimes sold out and he could not get his copy. I suggested that he could order it at his newsagent. A good idea, was
Eamonn's first reaction, but on second thoughts he added ever so modestly "maybe by buying it at the church, I will encourage others to do so".
I looked up back numbers of the Catholic Standard to see when Eamonn had started his column. I came across an item in January 1976 which illustrates the depth of Eamonn's feeling and his ability of mixing light hearted writing with the very profound:
"I don't suppose any killers read this paper — but maybe one of them will find this piece on a toilet hook or wrapping a sandwich or sticking out of a dustbin . . . and it will be a miracle if you do because I want to ask you a question or two.
Does killing involve you in any sacrifice, in any pain? Have you ever given up a moment of your time to help an old lady across the road or an old man across a patch of loneliness? Have you ever given anything you really treasure — yourself, your time, your pleasure, your time-consuming care — to heal a wound, in your own home, or your next door neighbours or in your street.
If the answer to all that is no, then you are a killer. Not a patriot. Not a soldier. Not a hero. A killer. A murderer." Eamonn always gave of his time when he was Chairman of the Catholic Stage Guild in London. I cannot recall him missing a meeting. The gatherings attracted not only the personalities of the stage, screen and television, but other hopefuls and those who had never made it. It was with the latter two that Eamonn, his wife Grainne by his side, spent most of the evening.
Eamonn's faith meant so much to him. I hope it will sustain Grainne, his family and his friends at this time of sorrow.
The last time I met Eamonn was in August in St Michael's Church, Dun Laoghaire outside Dublin. He had just left his daughter Niamh at the boat heading for England and he had gone to Mass there, as he did nearly every day of his life.
To be at home with Eamonn, Grainne and the family was always a great joy and such fun. Readers will know how he enjoyed cooking, how fond he was of his pets.
Eamonn's spirit will continue to be at their home in Portmarnock. Please pray for Eamonn and as he would want us to do, for Grainne, Emma, Feargal and Niamh. God bless them all.