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Arthur Deeny - noted comic and founding editor of Humanist Times

 

The life of Arthur Deeny, noted wit, raconteur, cricket captain, cherished husband, proud father and in his final years, founding editor of the Humanist Times, was marked on Saturday.

An Ulsterman who adopted Dublin as his home, few people loved the city more than Arthur, who died last Sunday aged 64.

Born the fifth of six children to Doctor Donnell and Annie Deeny on July 20, 1953, in Lurgan, Arthur was educated in Clongowes Wood College and in Trinity.

A renowned debater, Arthur won honours in Clongowes, and in college, earning the Maiden Speaker Award in the College Historical Society, the world's oldest university debating club.

From his earliest days, words flowed out of Arthur, from penning warm-up sketches for Gay Byrne's The Late Late Show on RTE to writing radio plays like Foggin' (the Armagh term for robbing an orchard) for the BBC.

A noted stand-up comic, even after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016, he still performed his classic routine Get Us Out of Here in The Moth, the peripatetic story-telling event.

An Irish Permanent copywriter, he created the words for Packie Bonner and Roy Keane for Italia 90, and penned multiple radio commercials, starring Owen Roe and Pauline McGlynn of Father Ted fame, though Arthur's gift for mimicry meant he often played parts himself.

While still in college, he began raising his family with his art historian wife Sile Connaughton.

Blessed with three daughters - Leda, Shaula and Cordaella - in September 2016, four decades after his graduation all five jointly collected their Masters of Arts scrolls in September 2016, leading Trinity Provost Patrick Prendergast to dub them The Five Masters. It was one of Arthur's proudest days.

After witnessing intolerance during the Troubles, he fought for compassion and tolerance for all communities, captaining two cricket teams - Arthur's Knights and The Tequila Slammers - noted for their rich mix of nationalities, culled from multiple corners of the Commonwealth.

His final flowering was as a humanist celebrant, though even back in the 1980s, he had already founded a company called Ceremonies Without Religion.

Showing the true courage of wit in the face of adversity, he wrote in his first issue of the Humanist Times: "I recently had the benefit of brain surgery, which took a load off my mind."

Arthur was a considerate, kind, hospitable, generous, stylish, warm, kind, lively, compassionate, creative, egalitarian and tremendously witty gentleman.

No statue awaits him, but he leaves something far more worthwhile, the memory of a life lived nobly.

Belfast Telegraph

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