Tighe, Joan (1922–2014), journalist, editor and historian, was born on 28 June 1922 in Dublin, the second eldest of six children of Robert Tighe and his wife Catherine Angela (née Moloney). Robert Tighe served as a British army lieutenant during the first world war and was later employed by the British pensions ministry in Dublin; a relative recalled him suffering from bouts of depression, probably because of his wartime experiences. The family lived at 20 Glengarriff Parade, Phibsborough, until about 1954 when they moved to Cremore, Glasnevin. Joan was a clever and creative child, and wrote short plays and sketches (younger siblings taking supporting roles), that were staged in the living room of their home and were a forerunner of the puppet shows she put on for grandnieces and nephews in later life. She attended the Holy Faith convent school on Dominick Street until 1940 when, after graduating with her leaving certificate, she attended the Abbey Theatre School, based in the Peacock Theatre. She trained for several years but, when it became clear that acting would not provide a living wage, she undertook a secretarial course instead.
In the 1940s it appeared that Tighe was set for a conventional life. She was engaged to Ultan Thornton, a dress designer from Home Farm Road, Glasnevin, and the couple were due to marry and settle down in a bungalow in Sutton. Before the wedding took place, however, Tighe called off the engagement, realising that marriage and a family would have ended her hopes of a career. Instead, the couple remained close friends and Ultan continued to be very much part of Tighe’s life until his death in 1981. Having failed to make a career on the stage, Tighe used her secretarial skills to gain employment with the advertising agency Wilson Hartnell, which published the monthly magazine the Irish Tatler and Sketch, a high-quality glossy paper. Her contributions included fashion features and social diaries, but also demonstrated her love for the local history. The March 1962 edition, for example, featured her four-page article on Lyons House, Celbridge.
In tandem with writing for Tatler and Sketch, Tighe also took over as editor of the Dublin Historical Record (DHR), a position she held from December 1961 until December 1970. She brought her journalistic instincts to the role, greatly increasing the number of illustrations used, especially those of Liam C. Martin (qv), who also did a series of drawings for the Evening Herald from 1967 entitled ‘Know your Dublin’. In addition to her role as editor, Tighe contributed widely to the journal over the next three decades, and her articles demonstrate a broad knowledge of the history of the city ranging from historical personalities such as Sir John de Blaquiere (qv), Thomas Perry (qv) and Katherine White (known as Dublin Corporation’s ‘garbage supremo’), to the history of buildings such as Kilmainham Gaol and the Mendicity Institution. In her first editorial for the journal in December 1961 she reminded readers that ‘our ancient monuments, documents and literature should be of the utmost importance to us … for the past is father of the present and often a guide to the future’. Her final editorial in 1970 decried the casual disregard shown by city authorities towards Dublin’s rich history: ‘If people care nothing for the past of a city, there’s little hope that they will be worried about the present and future image or aspect of that place’ (DHR, vols 15, 24).
Having proved her journalistic worth at Tatler and Sketch, in 1966 Bartle Pitcher of Independent Newspapers offered Tighe the position of women’s page editor at the Evening Herald – a title that implied a greater degree of seriousness than that of the ‘Petticoat Panel’ at the rival Evening Press. She was perhaps best known for her writing on fashion, and Irish designers such as Paul Costelloe credited her with bringing their work to a wider audience, but she also drew on her theatrical training to write theatre reviews, and brought struggling artists such as Graham Knuttel to public attention. Described as an ‘immaculately dressed Miss Marple’, Tighe remained at the Evening Herald until her retirement in 2002. Afterwards, she continued to contribute freelance articles and was a regular attendee at cultural and artistic events. Even when ill in the Mater Hospital towards the end of her life, Tighe remained a consummate journalist, sending word to her journalist nephew Ken Sweeney that the foyer had run out of newspapers and they could easily sell forty more copies if delivered. Joan Tighe (affectionately known within the family as ‘Peggy’) died on 30 January 2014 and was cremated at Glasnevin cemetery after requiem mass in the Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Glasnevin.