Sunday, January 27

A memory of Paddy McGuinness

Years ago, when the hour was late and the bar was dim, strangers would come up to me and say: "Jeez, Paddy, you're not looking so good. Is everything all right."
So when I heard on the early ABC radio news that Padraic Pearse McGuinness had died overnight, I felt much more than the usual sadness at the passing of another of the people who enriched Australian life over so many decades.

Not only because of the extraordinary power of his intellect, but because he was a genuine character in a style which may soon disappear from our society.

Sometimes Paddy would walk into a journalists' pub, prop himself on a stool, and hold court. With his trademark black shirt and a schooner of beer in hand, his conversation was genial and knowledgeable, but you always felt that he'd have trouble concealing his scorn if you said something too inane.

Paddy scored a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) at Sydney University while also knocking around with the Push, that loosely associated group of students, ratbags, intellectuals, wharfies and vivacious young women just out of private schools who mingled in those few Sydney pubs which began to allow women in their front bars.

He went on to earn a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics, then became an adviser to the Moscow Narodny Bank in London. Back in Australia, he became adviser to Treasurer Bill Hayden in the Whitlam government.

I believe he was an architect of Medicare, and if so he's left an enduring benefit to our nation, although it seems he wasn't always proud of it.

Later, Paddy became editor-in-chief of The Australian Financial Review, and later of Quadrant.

Perhaps you'll let me note our differing experiences with melanoma. I survived melanoma in the mid 1970s after allowing surgeons to carve bits from my body. I always speak freely about my experience, hoping I may persuade others to have that checkup in time.

If an unsourced report on The Australian's website this morning is correct, Paddy died of melanoma after a long illness. Yet few knew of it.

Paddy annnounced his retirement as Quadrant editor several months ago, and we all believed he felt it was time to move on after ten years. The current issue, for January-February, is the 100th he edited, as well as his last. Now it seems Paddy resigned knowing he had cancer with a bleak prognosis.

The photo above comes from the Henry Thornton website, on which Paddy was a contributor. I suspect Henry Thornton may also have been an alter ego of Paddy. The website says:

Henry Thornton (1760-1815) was a banker, M.P., philanthropist, and a leading figure in the influential group of Evangelicals that was known as the Clapham set. His 'Enquiry into the Nature and Effects of the Paper Credit of Great Britain (1802)' is an amazing performance.

". . . it anticipates in some points the analytic developments of a century to come. No other performance of the period will bear comparison with it, though several, among them Ricardo's, met with much greater success at the time as well as later ...

He was one of those men who see things clearly and who express with unassuming simplicity what they see."

Specialities: Economist, Corporate, Sport

No, that couldn't have been Paddy. I'm sure P.P. McGuinness believed sport to be one of the more pointless fields of human endeavour.

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