Alan was a noted journalist with an investigative mind
THE death of Alan (Richard Annand) Wilkes, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, formerly Motoring Correspondent and Deputy Editor of the Evening Press, occurred unexpectedly on Tuesday, February 20.
Born in Dublin into a family of journalists, he followed his father Dick Wilkes into the press after leaving UCD where he studied science. He grew up in Templeogue where summer holidays were shared with his cousin David Wilkes in Malahide. David remembers him saying: ‘I lived on the right side of the Northside whereas he lived on the wrong side of the Southside, which cancelled any notions we might have had about where we lived.’
As a child, he was passionate about model planes, ships and trains. This may have been the foundation of his motoring obsession.
Alan had a distinguished career as a journalist. As deputy editor of the Evening Press, he is remembered by colleagues as a master of his craft and as a motoring journalist of considerable distinction.
He had a well-honed ability to discover unusual aspects of any story and to transform them into an article or feature that would immediately capture the attention of the reader. He wrote obituaries for the Telegraph and it was a well-kept secret that he often created controversies in the letters pages of Irish and cross-channel newspapers using the pseudonym of his beloved ginger cat.
He had an unrivalled knowledge of cars, and he loved to test the latest models on outings which he frequently shared with his friend, Austin Channing, who was the motoring correspondent for Irish Independent and later Managing Director of People Newspapers, Wexford.
Alan was a member of the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association, and he was a frequent contributor of articles and features on different aspects of motoring to a number of publications.
Following the closure of the Irish Press group, Alan took up a position as Lecturer in Communications at Dublin Institute of Technology. It gave him great satisfaction to have the opportunity to pass on practical information which he gained from his experience as a working journalist and freelance writer.
He was predeceased in 2006 by his wife, Clare Boylan, the acclaimed novelist, short story writer and journalist. Alan and Clare were passionate about France and bought a house in Brittany in 2003, where they extended hospitality to both family and friends. They looked on this house as their real home, and afterwards it became both a memorial to Clare and a haven for Alan.
When Clare died, Alan said: ‘ I thought the lights had all gone out when the Press folded, but worse was to come; a much brighter light has gone out for me now. I had known Clare since she was 17, virtually her entire life. She was always petite but powerful, and her influence is still all around me. I feel that she is still looking over my shoulder.’
A Service of Remembrance took place on Monday, February 26, in The Victorian Chapel, Mount Jerome. The Celebrant was Rev Hugh Gormley and soloist was Brendan Collins, accompanied by Niall Kinsella.
In a tribute, Tony Toner from the Motoring World spoke of sharing time with a gentleman who loved order and decorum, all with his own sprinkling of pepper and natural crankiness.
Tony recalled walking into a lounge in Dublin Airport in 1994. ‘In the room’, he said, ‘stood Pat Comyn, Ted Bonner, Andrew Hamilton and Alan Wilkes. Never in my background did I feel as intimidated as I did that morning. These men were powerhouses in their profession and I was seriously out of my depth and comfort zone.’
Alan’s demeanour was always gentlemanly and belied his vast knowledge and devilish sense of humour. Out on the road with Alan was a phenomenal opportunity to delve into his world, where, before Google, he was the oracle. Press conferences were where Alan truly came into his own. He could forward a question that was as fearless as his relentlessness for the answer.
Through Facebook, Alan discovered an avenue to expound on and express some of the things that irked him. There he found a whole new audience, some of them finding out quickly his formidable talent.
Tony concluded: ‘In saying goodbye to Alan today as he makes his final journey, our hearts are with his family and their loss. I will miss him hugely, as will all in motoring lucky enough to share the miles with a true one-off.’
Visits from Alan and Clare always enhanced family celebrations raising them from the mundane to the exotic. His friends remember them both for their generous hospitality and entertaining company.
He is survived by his sister, Clodagh; sisters-in-law, Patricia and Anne, nieces and nephews, other relatives and many friends.
Alan will be remembered as a real individualist, with an investigative mind, hugely articulate – his speeches punctuated by his distinctive hearty chuckle, who liked to do things his way.
The late Alan Wilkes.