An Extraordinary Woman

Posted on: 31st December, 2013

Category: Features

Contributor: West Cork People

From copytaker to woman’s editor, Maureen Fox was one of the first women journalists to work in the newsroom of the then ‘Cork Examiner’ from the early 70’s right through to the early 90’s. She had a unique style of speaking to her readers and for years her columns were among the most popular in the Examiner, generating letters from readers that poured in by the sackful. Maureen was also the first Irish print journalist to receive the prestigious Friendship Force International Peace Award for her outstanding contribution to world peace and friendship. The panel of judges included Rosalyn Carter, wife of former US President Jimmy Carter.

‘Maureen Fox, An Extraordinary Woman’, a book compiled and edited by her daughter Tanya Schleich, takes a trip back down memory lane with beautiful images and stories, starting from Maureen’s early days, her days as an actress on the stage, the charities that she championed — including her article and images from the day that she went on a blindfolded walk in Cork in 1982 with Goldie her guide dog. The book includes a selection of her well known articles, including her interview with tenor Frank Patterson, Seamus Murphy, Senator Mary Robinson and the cast of Upstairs Downstairs and of course, her famous ‘Paws Awhile’ Column — ‘written’ by her dog Ponsonby and who became as well known in Cork as Maureen herself.

Maureen had a large readership in West Cork, her daughter Tanya attended Bandon Grammar School and she spent many holidays in Bantry and the surrounding areas throughout her life. One of the articles featured in the book recalls a funny story of when she tried to buy land in Durrus in the early 80’s and also of a tale of a ‘ghostly’ experience she had when in Bantry.

As Maureen always championed many charities throughout her career and four charities have been chosen to benefit from the sales of this book and they include The Irish Guide Dogs Association, ARC Animal Rescue Cobh, The Irish Wheelchair Association and Penny Dinners in Cork.

Books are available at Hickeys Bookstore, Bandon as well as outlets in Cork and on line at The book retails for €12.99.


An extract (of specific West Cork interest) from the book 

How not to put your foot in it! (1984)

Like thousands of others before me, I’d love just a wee bit of land on the seashore – so what better opportunity to have a look around than while I was in West Cork?

As Durrus was my headquarters, it was just a question of having a drink in Paddy Barry’s pub there and eventually getting around to the question of land.

After much concentration, he told me he knew of one piece of land that would be particularly right for me and as we travelled along the road, he extolled the virtues of the area, the shocking increases in the prices of land and the fact that so much had already been sold. “Hold on Paddy” – I said, “I’m not a German or a Yank – I’m just from Cork”.

The field was beautiful, overlooking the water with panoramic views and as we walked – and Paddy talked – I stepped into a huge cow pat. My shoe was removed, trousers rolled up and as the owner were not at home, we headed back to Durrus. The smell in the car was overpowering (even the dog had has head out of the window), but it didn’t deter Paddy. We met the farmer driving towards us, so both cars stopped on the narrow lane. I hopped out, Paddy did the introductions and I made my first mistake. “How much do you want for the land” I asked.” Well ….” he replied and then there was a silence, “I don’t know now if I’m going to sell it. I hadn’t thought about it” The remains of the cow pat were hardening into my trousers, so it was decided that Paddy would ‘have a chat with him later on’.

Now there is a recession countrywide, but somehow in rural areas there are better opportunities for keeping the wolf from the door. A king of diversification, Paddy told me that he was starting up a new business and suggested that I look in the front window of his house. There, in his sitting room were two large coffins, artificial wreaths and, parked nearby a hearse of antique vintage. Obviously there’s money in death, and Paddy was happy for potential customers to let ‘Barry bury you’. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to think that being buried by Paddy Barry would be a novel experience! At least he is not prepared to sit there and do nothing – and as for me, all I gleaned during that afternoon of land hunting was the exact price for a burial!

Incidentally, I was later given the correct format for this kind of business by a Continental who wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world but West Cork.

“Never ask a direct question” she advised, “but talk around the subject. That person will know what you are getting at, you will know that he knows, then if he doesn’t want to give you the information, he’ll ignore the topic and no one will lose face”.

I reckon that’s an art that is learned only after years of trial and error! (523)


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