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The late Maeve Binchy Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
review 2012

RIP: Remembering those we lost in 2012

From writer Maeve Binchy to astronaut Neil Armstrong, rugby star Nevin Spence to GAA great Páidí Ó Sé, we take a look back at some of the many greats that Ireland, and the world, lost this year.

IT HAS BEEN a year of highs and lows, but one low that cannot be avoided, and that cannot be safeguarded against, is the loss of loved ones.

This is also true of public figures, both national and international.

Join us as we take a look back at those we lost over the last 12 months.


World famous photographer Eve Arnold passed away on 4 January at the age of 99. Perhaps most famous for her pictures of Marilyn Monroe, she photographed, and treated, both the rich and poor the same, immortalising moments with the click of a shutter.

Television presenter Bob Holness, best known for his fronting of the hugely popular quiz show Blockbusters, passed away on 6 January. He was 83. In a career which spanned almost 60 years, he had been a theatre actor and radio broadcaster in the UK before hosting the quiz show for 11 years.

Journalist and documentary-maker Mary Raftery passed away on 10 January. Her “States of Fear” documentary series helped to uncover the abuse suffered by children in State schools that were run by the church. Her passing was marked by RTÉ director general Noel Curran, who said that her “journalism was defined by determination and fearlessness.”

Journalist and editor Aengus Fanning passed away on 17 January, aged 69. He had been editor of the Sunday Independent since 1984. President Higgins paid tribute, saying that he had been a “committed journalist and editor whose energy and talents will be greatly missed by his colleagues, not only in the Sunday Independent, but also in the wider world of journalism”.

American singer Etta James passed away on 20 January at the age of 73. Having first tasted success in her teenage years, she was the winner of six Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



Aged just 48, singer Whitney Houston passed away on 11 February. A cousin of Dionne Warwick, she first achieved international success with the song “Saving all my love for you”, which was released in 1985. Having sold over 55 million records in the US alone, personal issues had caused her star to wane somewhat over recent years. She will, however, be remembered as having one of the world’s more powerful voices, with her huge number of hits living on for many, many years to come.

One of Ireland’s best known and most recognisable actors, David Kelly, passed away on 12 February. He was 82. A star of both stage and screen, Kelly starred in RTÉ’s 1980s TV miniseries “Strumpet City”. He was also a star of the silver screen, shining in the role of Grandpa Joe in Tim Burton’s 2005 film “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. He will, however, be most affectionately known as the inept Irish builder Mr O’Reilly.


Wars in 2012 ended the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Included in these were some of the journalists covering the conflict. One such journalist was American Anthony Shadid, who died of a asthma attack on 16 February while on assignment in Syria. He was 43. The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner had spent most of his working life covering stories in the Middle East.

Less than a week later, the journalist Marie Colvin, who was working with The Sunday Times at the time, was killed in Syria. She died on 22 February, aged 56. French photographer Remi Ochlik was also killed in the shelling. Colvin was a long time reporter for the paper and had reported from many war zones, including Sri Lanka in 2001, where she was blinded in one eye after being hit by shrapnel.

Belfast-born comedian Frank Carson passed away on 22 February, aged 85. A multiple winner of the talent show “Opportunity Knocks” his inoffensive comedy style made him a favourite in both Ireland and the UK. The two-time Mayor of Balbriggan, Co Dublin was probably best known for his phrases “It’s a cracker!” and “It’s the way I tell ‘em!”.

Florence Noonan, the wife of Finance Minister Michael Noonan, passed away on 24 February after a long battle with Alzheimers. Having lived with the disease for 14 years, she died aged 68. Known as “Flor”, the ex-teacher was a native of Kerry and a mother of five.

Irish comedian Hal Roach, perhaps best known for his famous catchphrase “Write it down, it’s a good one!” passed away on 28 February, aged 84. The Waterford native made the Guinness Book of Records for his 26 year residency at Jury’s Irish Cabaret at Jury’s Ballsbridge in Dublin.

David Thomas Jones, better known as “Davy” Jones of The Monkees, passed away on 29 February, aged 66. Born in Manchester, England, he began his acting career at just 11-years-old. It is for The Monkees, however, that the one-time racehorse jockey will be best remembered. The manufactured band had a hit TV show as well as nine top 40 hits, including “Daydream Believer” and “I’m a Believer” during the 1960s.


Nobel laureate Frank Sherwood Rowland passed away on 10 March, at the age of 84. The Professor of Chemistry discovered, along with Mario Molina, that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were leading to a thinning of the ozone layer. In 1978, CFC-emitting aerosols were banned from being sold in the United States as a result.

Former ombudsman Kevin Murphy passed away on 6 March. He was 75. He had previously been appointed as Ireland’s first Information Commissioner, following the passing of the Freedom of Information Act.

AFL star and ex-Gaelic footballer Jim Stynes passed away on 20 March, aged just 45. Having moved to Australia in 1984, he excelled in the Australian Football League, becoming the first non-Australian player to claim the Brownlow Medal. Following his death, he received a state funeral in his adopted home of Victoria.

(Melbourne Demons Footy/YouTube)

Professional darts player, John Thomas “Jocky” Wilson passed away on 24 March. He was 62. A two-time former world darts champion, fellow dart player Phil Taylor described him as “one of the greatest” characters in darts.


Theatre manager Michael Diskin passed away in April, aged 49. He had been battling cancer. President Higgins said that his death was a “huge loss to all those who worked in the arts, culture, theatre and performance on this island.” He had managed The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, before working with both the Town Hall and The Black Box theatres in Galway.

The last remaining founding member of The Dubliners, Barney McKenna, passed away on 5 April. The banjo player was 72. McKenna, from Donneycarney, had taken part in a number of concerts to mark the 50th anniversary of the band shortly before his death. The band are set to disband at the end of 2012.


Levon Helm, the drummer and backing vocalist with “The Band”, Bob Dylan’s backing group, passed away on 19 April. He was aged 71. The Band made it big when they were hired by Dylan in 1965. When Dylan changed his sound, however, Helm quit, returning to his hometown of Arkansas.

Men at Work band member Greg Ham passed away on 19 April, aged 58. He had played saxophone and flute within the band, whose hits included “Down Under” and “Who Can it Be Now?”. The band won the Best New Artist Grammy award in 1983.

Dublin born painter Louis le Brocquy passed away on 25 April. He was 95. Known for his portraits of famous Irish characters such as WB Yeats, James Joyce, Bono and Samuel Beckett, his best known work, “A Family”, is housed in the National Gallery of Ireland.


Beastie Boy Adam Yauch lost his battle with cancer on 4 May. He was just 47. The Beastie Boys gained global fame in 1986 with their track “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)”, and their debut album “Licensed to Ill” became the first ever rap album to top the US Billboard 200.

Hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, the man who revolutionised his profession, passed away on 9 May, aged 84. The popularity of his hairstyles and the perceived liberation they offered allowed him to open a chain of shops.

Vidal Sassoon (on right) giving Chelsea striker Peter Osgood a haircut. (PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images)

The queen of disco, Donna Summer, passed away on 17 May. She was 63. A five-time Grammy award winner, her hits included “Hot Stuff”, “Last Dance”, “I Feel Love” and “Bad Girls”.

Bee Gee Robin Gibb lost his battle with cancer on 20 May, aged 62. The singer and songwriter had helped create disco in the ’70s, as part of a band which sold over 200 million records.


Former ceann comhairle and policitian Pádraig Faulkner passed away on 1 June, aged 94. He held a number of ministerial positions within the Fianna Fáil party. Party leader Micheál Martin paid tribute, saying that Faulkner had “made an undoubted contribution to the social and economic development of Ireland in the second half of the twentieth century.”

The American writer Ray Bradbury, probably most famous for his book Fahrenheit 451, died on 5 June at the age of 91. In a career which spanned over seven decades, he had received an Oscar nomination and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.

Nora Ephron, 71, passed away on 26 June. The journalist, essayist and writer was also a producer and director. Her romantic comedies included “When Harry met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail”.


American astronaut Sally Ride, 61, passed away on 23 July. As the first female astronaut in space, US President Barack Obama hailed her as “a national hero and powerful role model.”

English actor Geoffrey Hughes passed away on 27 July at the age of 68. The former Coronation Street star was best known for his roles in The Royal Family (as Twiggy) and in Keeping Up Appearances, where he played the vest-wearing Onslow.

Irish writer Maeve Binchy passed away on 30 July at the age of 72. She was the author of books such as “Circle of Friends” and “Tara Road”, both of which were adapted for the big-screen. An Taoiseach Enda Kenny described her as a “national treasure”.


RTÉ Radio One will present Maeve Binchy: A Celebration on St Stephen’s Day at 9am. Friends and family will gather with presenter Evelyn O’Rourke to remember the woman and the talent, as well as hear archive footage and a new interview with husband Gordon.

American writer Gore Vidal passed away on 31 July, aged 86. An author, playwright, politician and commentator, he wrote the novels “Lincoln” and “Myra Breckenridge” and wrote the Tony-award nominated play “The Best Man”.


Irish sports journalist Con Houlihan passed away on 4 August. He was 86. The Kerry native had written for The Irish Press, Evening Press and Sunday Press during a career which spanned decades.

The British film director and producer Tony Scott passed away on 19 August. He was 68. He was best known for his directing of a number of high-octane action films, including “Top Gun”, “Enemy of the State”, “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Crimson Tide”.

The American actress and comedienne Phyllis Diller passed away on 20 August. She was 95. The pioneering comic paved the way for many others, including Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman.

Star of the stage and screen Maureen Toal passed away on 24 August, aged 81. The long-time theatre actress was probably best known for playing the role of Teasie in RTÉ’s Glenroe.

The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, 82, passed away on 25 August. The Korean War veteran remained humble throughout his life, shying away from the fame which followed his achievements as an astronaut. US President Barack Obama said that he was “was among the greatest of American heroes – not just of his time, but of all time.”



American actor Michael Clarke Duncan passed away on 3 September. He was 54. He got his big break when he starred in the 1998 blockbuster Armageddon, and received both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his role as John Coffey in the 1999 film The Green Mile.

Rugby player Nevin Spence died tragically, along with his brother Graham and father Noel, on 15 September. He was only 22. He had played for Ireland at national level and for Ulster in the RaboDirect Pro12 rugby union competition.

Singer Andy Williams, 84, passed away on 25 September. The singer was best known for his hits “Moon River” and “Music To Watch Girls By”.



British biologist Keith Campbell passed away on 5 October at the age of 58. He achieved international fame as the person who oversaw the birth of Dolly the sheep, the world’s first cloned mammal.

London born Major Paddy Roy Bates led a varied life as an army officer, pirate radio broadcaster and founder of the Principality of Sealand until his death on 9 October. He was 91.


English actor Bill Tarmey passed away on 9 November. He was 71. While he started out in the entertainment industry as a singer, he came to national attention as Jack Duckworth, the character he played in Coronation Street.

Musician Martin Fay passed away on 14 November. He was 76. He helped found the traditional Irish group The Chieftains in 1962. He played both the fiddle and the bones. On his passing, The Chieftains said that his “memory and music will be with The Chieftains always.”

(Music Videos – Ireland – Plus/YouTube)

American actor Larry Hagman passed away on 23 November at the age of 81. He starred in the ’60s show “I dream of Jeannie” but was best known for his portrayal of oil baron JR Ewing in the hit show Dallas.


Jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck passed away on 5 December. He was 91. In a musical career which spanned seven decades, he was viewed as being at the forefront of progressive jazz.

On the same day, world famous architect Oscar Niemeyer passed away at the age of 104. Describing his use of curves in his designs, he said that he was inspired by the curves of Brazilian women.

English astronomer and broadcaster Sir Patrick Moore passed away on 9 December. He was 89. The author or more than 70 books, he is credited with bringing astronomy to a mainstream audience.

Musician and composer Ravi Shankar, 92, passed away on 11 December. Shankar was a three-time Grammy award winner, and an influence on musicians ranging from The Beatles to violinist Yehudi Menuhin.

Former Kerry footballer and manager Páidí Ó Sé passed away on 14 December, aged 57. In a life dedicated to the GAA, he was a winner of eight All-Ireland senior championships as a player and two as Kerry manager.

Fine Gael TD for Meath East Shane McEntee passed away on 21 December. He was 56. From Nobber in Co Meath, he was first elected to the Dáil in a by-election for Meath in 2005 and was Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture with responsibility for Food, Horticulture and Food Safety.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anamnacha dílis

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