The former editor of The Tablet, John Wilkins, cut his teeth as a Catholic journalist with contributions to the Catholic Herald under Desmond Fisher, who has died in Dublin at the age of 94. Fisher was the Herald’s editor from 1962-1966, the years of the Second Vatican Council, in succession to the great Michael de la Bédoyère.
For Fisher the Council came as a liberation. He once sent Wilkins a postcard from Rome of St Peter’s with its famous dome. On the back he had written: “This is what needs the lid taken off it.” He could not have foreseen that Pope Francis would oblige.
He stood four square with the progressives, and he went at it full tilt. Another journalist indebted to Fisher is Senator John Horgan. Fisher gave him his first job. It was “fun” at the Herald, says Horgan. “Everyone did everything – writing leaders, articles, reports, taking photographs.”
Inevitably, however, the authorities took fright, and Fisher resigned. His reputation remained high, especially in the US, and from 1966 to 1974 he was a regular contributor to the Church Times. Back in Ireland, he filled senior posts with newspapers and with Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE.
Right up to a year or two ago he was still writing. His last work was an examination of the translations of the Stabat Mater, together with one of his own. In the hospice as he succumbed to cancer, ever the perfectionist, he was still putting the final touches to his text.
(John Wilkins is a former Editor of The Tablet)