Tal­ented lin­guist and a touch­stone for artists

The Irish Times - - Obituaries - Bernard Lough­lin

Born: Fe­bru­ary 3rd, 1950 Died: Oc­to­ber 19th, 2018

A gen­er­a­tion of Ir­ish painters, sculp­tors, po­ets, nov­el­ists, mu­si­cians, play­wrights and film mak­ers were deeply shocked and sad­dened by the sud­den death of Bernard Lough­lin in a freak ac­ci­dent in the gar­den of his home in the Pyre­nean hill­top vil­lage of Far­rera.

Bernard Lough­lin was the first di­rec­tor of the Tyrone Guthrie Cen­tre in An­nagh­mak­er­rig in Co Mon­aghan. With his wife, Mary, he ran the artists’ re­treat from 1981 to 1999, nur­tur­ing the creative en­deav­our of both begin­ner and es­tab­lished creative artists, mak­ing ev­ery­one feel equally at home in the coun­try house that English the­atre di­rec­tor, Tyrone Guthrie, had be­queathed to the Ir­ish State.

Born in An­der­son­stown, Belfast and the el­dest of five chil­dren, Lough­lin at­tended Queen’s Uni­ver­sity for a time, edit­ing the col­lege news­pa­per the Gown but never grad­u­at­ing. Like many of his gen­er­a­tion, he trav­elled to main­land Eu­rope where he taught English and soaked up the rich cul­tural and lin­guis­tic land­scapes of France, Switzer­land, Ger­many and Spain.

He first went to Spain with his then girl­friend, Mary Ro­gan, in Novem­ber 1975 fol­low­ing the death of Gen­eral Franco. Nov­el­ist and one-time jour­nal­ist Colm Tóibín was teach­ing English in Barcelona at that time and he and Lough­lin be­came life­long friends. “At that time, Bernard spoke French, Ger­man and be­came flu­ent in Span­ish in a few months and flu­ent in Cata­lan a few months later. He had an ex­tra­or­di­nary gift for lan­guages,” re­mem­bers Tóibín. “He also read a novel a day – in dif­fer­ent lan­guages – which made Bernard a great touch­stone for me through­out my life. He was fully cos­mopoli­tan, a paci­fist with­out the bur­den of pol­i­tics whether from North­ern Ire­land or Cat­alo­nia.”

Fol­low­ing a stint teach­ing English in Barcelona, the cou­ple rented a house, Can Felip, in the vil­lage of Far­rera in Cat­alo­nia. They got mar­ried there in 1976 and their daugh­ter, Maeve – born in 1977 – was the first child born in the vil­lage for more than 30 years. They then re­turned to Ire­land, first to Belfast, then to Killy­begs, Co Done­gal (where Lough­lin worked as a fish­er­man on a trawler) and then in Dublin, where he taught English. Their son, Eoin, was born in 1979 while the fam­ily lived in Dublin.


When the pos­si­bil­ity of run­ning the Tyrone Guthrie cen­tre pre­sented it­self, they en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced the op­por­tu­nity to run this artists’ re­treat jointly funded by the Arts Coun­cil of Ire­land and the Arts Coun­cil of North­ern Ire­land. This cross-Bor­der ini­tia­tive meant that artists from the North and the South would meet and spend time to­gether over what be­came the leg­endary 7pm de­li­cious din­ners (cooked by Mary) that Tyrone Guthrie had stip­u­lated to oc­cur in his will. Dur­ing their time there, Lough­lin re­ceived grants to con­vert farm build­ings into artists’ stu­dios and re­claimed the gar­dens to more than their for­mer glory.

Fol­low­ing his death, many artists and writ­ers spoke about how his re­laxed and watch­ful pres­ence at An­nagh­mak­er­rig helped shape their creative lives and how friend­ships made there nour­ished them on their artis­tic jour­neys.

Poet and life­long friend of the Lough­lin fam­ily Theo Dor­gan says that Lough­lin’s pri­mary con­cern was the well­be­ing and wel­fare of the artists who stayed at An­nagh­mak­er­rig. “Benny worked seven days a week in An­nagh­mak­er­rig. You could see him at any hour in his of­fice, in the gar­den or check­ing in with artists. He also was a driver of that cul­ture which says there is no bor­der in the arts. An­nagh­mak­er­rig was the cul­tural equiv­a­lent to the Glen­cree Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Cen­tre in Co Wick­low.”

When their time at An­nagh­mak­er­rig came to an end in 1999, they moved back to Far­rera, hav­ing per­suaded the own­ers of Can Felip to sell them the house in the 1980s.

Lough­lin was buried in Far­rera af­ter a sec­u­lar fu­neral con­ducted by au­thor and fam­ily friend Michael Hard­ing.

His daugh­ter, Maeve, says: “I will re­mem­ber my dad as the fun­ni­est, strong­est, most re­silient, most won­der­ful and most lov­ing man in the world.”

Bernard Lough­lin is sur­vived by his wife, Mary, his daugh­ter, Maeve, his son, Eoin, his sis­ters, Har­riet and Mar­ion, and his brother, Michael. He was pre-de­ceased by his brother, Billy.

Bernard Lough­lin first went to Spain with his wife-to-be Mary Ro­gan, in Novem­ber 1975 fol­low­ing Franco’s death

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