Goldhawk, founder of ‘The Phoenix’, kept the legal eagles busy until the end

Legacy: ‘The Phoenix’ founder John Mulcahy was both an outsider and part of the establishment
Legacy: ‘The Phoenix’ founder John Mulcahy was both an outsider and part of the establishment

Josh Mulcahy, the publisher of ‘The Phoenix’ who has died at the age of 86, liked to cock a snook at the establishment while, at the same time, being very much a part of it.

It is a mark of his acumen as a publisher that he kept the satirical magazine going for decades in a notoriously precarious business, with a circulation hovering around 20,000.

Journalists, politicians, legal eagles and business people, whose foibles were covered in its pages in gory detail, might complain that it was rarely as funny as ‘Private Eye’, its British counterpart.

But, at the same time, the movers and shakers of the establishment could not wait to read the latest gossip.

Mulcahy’s timing in founding ‘The Phoenix’ in 1982 was perfect. By the early 1980s, newspapers could still be stodgy, somewhat humourless and deferential. Some might baulk at some the magazine’s political stances – a type of Dublin 4 republicanism – but Mulcahy, who lived in an elegant period home in Ranelagh, moved deftly among the great and the good.

When the art connoisseur joined the board of the National Gallery in 2008, he lined up alongside society figures such as the Knight of Glin, businessman Lochlann Quinn and Loretta Brennan Glucksman.

For many years he could be heard as the distinctive voice of ‘The Phoenix’ alter ego ‘Goldhawk’ on radio ads for the magazine.

Mulcahy was born on May 17, 1932, in Perth, Australia, where his grandfather had emigrated from Tipperary half a century earlier. His father Daniel died when he was a child and his mother Josephine brought her family back to Ireland, settling in Ballinakill, Co Laois.

Educated at Clongowes, Mulcahy studied economics and history at Trinity College Dublin. After working in the motor industry, in 1968 he took the plunge into publishing when he bought ‘Hibernia’ magazine.

Mulcahy transformed it into the first incarnation of ‘The Sunday Tribune’. His involvement was shortlived, as he sold his share of the paper and set up ‘The Phoenix’.

There were visits to the courts to defend libel actions.

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And Mulcahy could probably paper the walls of the magazine’s headquarters above Larry Murphy’s pub on Baggot Street with solicitors’ letters.

In 2008, Anglo Irish Bank even threatened the magazine with an injunction for saying the bank was technically bankrupt.

He bought the ‘Irish Arts Review’, a quarterly publication, in January 2002. Again, it was good timing as the art market in was taking off.

Mulcahy is survived by his wife Nuala and seven children, Nick, Michael, Stephen, Brigid, Jack, Hugh and Aengus. He was predeceased by daughter Natasha.

Irish Independent

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