Booth, Arthur James Conry (1891–1926), satirist and cartoonist, was born 24 September 1891 in Dublin, youngest among four children of James Booth, of the Dublin port and docks board, and Helen Booth (née Duggan) of 34 Belgrave Square, Rathmines, Co. Dublin. The Booth family, who had been resident in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, from 1750, had at one time been involved in paper- and cotton-milling. Orphaned at a young age, Arthur was reared by his aunt, Alice Duggan, and educated at the Dominican Convent, Wicklow, and at the Catholic University (upper) School (1902–6). On the completion of his intermediate certificate (junior grade 1906) he joined the traffic department of the Dublin United Tramways Co., and was the only one of his siblings to remain in Ireland – his two elder brothers emigrated to South Africa while his sister joined the English noviciate of the Loreto order.
Through an amateur dramatic society attached to the church of the Passionist Fathers at Mount Argus, Booth met Thomas J. Collins (qv) and the younger Charles E. Kelly (qv), both civil servants, with the office of national education. When the Mount Argus Players collapsed, Booth and Kelly joined the Rathgar Players. Both were talented cartoonists and decided to start a humorous journal. They conscripted Collins, who had a talent for light verse, as writer. Booth was editor. Kelly persuaded him to change the original title from Dublin Topics to Dublin Opinion, and the first issue, of sixteen pages, appeared on 1 March 1922, financed by a loan from a friend of Booth. Its 3,000 copies sold out, but the next issue did badly. The third issue benefited from by the Eason company distribution and from Booth's striking cover of a skull and crossbones which, when inverted, showed the heads of Arthur Griffith (qv) and Éamon de Valera (qv) with hands clasped in peace. Thereafter the magazine sold exceptionally well – within four years its circulation was 40,000 per issue.
Dublin Opinion was launched during the civil war – its aim, stated in the first editorial, ‘was to interest and amuse our readers, and if there must be Free Staters and republicans, we hope our pages may be as entertaining for the one as for the other . . . we poke fun in the spirit of camaraderie’. It took care to adopt a balanced, neutral tone and to ridicule both sides – its satire was gentle and good-humoured, except when the victim was Ulster or England, in which case the humour became pointed and vitriolic. However, though Michael Collins (qv) and de Valera were portrayed as grotesquely ‘Big’ and ‘Long’ respectively, the magazine's founders were middle-class catholics who appealed to a like readership, and their probable preference for the treaty side came across in their constant appeals for peace.
Booth drew all the covers in the first few years, with Kelly drawing cartoons inside. Booth tended to be more sombre and to predicate the message over the aesthetic; Kelly was more playful. Booth's wartime covers predicted ruin and desolation; when peace came he concentrated on the unemployment problem.
The magazine benefited from contributors such as Mícheál MacLiammóir (qv), Grace Plunkett (qv), and Beatrice, Lady Glenavy (qv), and was witty and occasionally erudite. An early cartoon (August 1922) showed a lady mournfully surveying the ruins of O'Connell St., and sighing: ‘Ah, it was a pretty thoroughfare.’ Her companion concurs: ‘Aye, a pretty thorough affair.’ The magazine also recorded one of the first jokes about James Joyce's (qv) Ulysses.
Booth lived at Casimir Road, Harold's Cross, Dublin, with his wife Nora (m. June 1916), youngest daughter of Maj. Robert J. Baker, DSO, of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and Florence Mary Josephine Baker (née Meerwald) of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines. They had three children. Contracting pneumonia, Booth died 8 October 1926, leaving an estate of £1,798. His wife survived him by only two weeks.
Dublin Opinion Ltd was founded by Maj. Baker with Kelly and Collins as directors. The magazine continued to enjoy good sales till its decline in the 1960s.