By Nidhi Chopra, CNN • Updated 13th January 2020
Bally, Ireland (CNN) — Richard Buckley was the kind of guy who, as he walked along Notre Dame Boulevard in Dublin, might glance at you, smile broadly and offer a wry look — not just this time but over and over.
He was also an avid sports fan — as any avid sports fan does — as any avid sports fan needs to be. And the knowledge and stamina he possessed as a reporter for The Sunday Times of London could only be compared to his enthusiasm for all things Ireland.
This though is no insult. It’s a tribute.
It’s easy to argue that football as a man’s passion carries some inherent nobility, and that its singular drive to fill empty stadia worldwide takes tremendous dedication, as Buckley’s passion made him arguably the U.K.’s most consistent and productive football writer for over 40 years.
His death Friday in his native Dublin follows that of a beloved friend and colleague for 10 years, Scotland’s Murray Cubitt.
Or, as Buckley referred to him, “the Sizzle from the Caledonians.”
Death inspires to go on
Having shared with only two people his secret for living to 80, Buckley’s living was as fierce and stubborn as its output.
He died surrounded by his family and friends in his home — an Irish castle on a star-less night — as he had every other day for at least the past six years.
Having filled every spare moment in his life with a combination of work, hobbies and adventure, that was enough for a lifetime.
He’d lost two previous wives in the Irish civil war in the mid-19th century and more recently, complications from a longtime cancer caused him to suffer memory loss.
Richard Buckley Photographer: Irish Traveller Show, www.wikipedia.org
But it’s likely no one ever realized until it was too late.
‘Such a driving force’
Buckley was well loved by those he worked with.
He was “always there” when publishers needed a recommendation or a young reporter needed encouragement.
The man with the perfect Irish accent who could also sound like a foreign correspondent was “so useful to anyone who had a job going,” said The Times managing editor Keith Webster.
“That was the first thing I thought when I heard the news. Richard always had his ear to the ground. He knew what was going on; he was a great help.”
Buckley’s stories made the newspaper his home.
Of the many he wrote, he wrote the longest for The Times. The four-and-a-half million word haul was called “The Murder and Cover-up of Barry Ryan,” and told the true story of Ryan, the basketball star who disappeared on his way to a game in 1971.
“Richard Buckley was one of the most distinguished journalists of his generation,” said The Times Chairman Robert Thomson.
“He was an authoritative, insightful commentator on crime, politics and sport. His accounts of the years on Northern Ireland, where his reportage was deeply informed, meticulous and prolific, were compulsively readable.”
He’s survived by his second wife, Joan, as well as his two daughters, Bilyne and Elita.
Buckley’s death has inevitably reminded people of the financial crisis of 2008, when he saw the Celtic Tiger tumble for the final time.
Yet as the Irishman himself revealed in his 2008 memoir “The Spit,” always at the front of his mind, even then, was how to fly the Irish flag up the flagpole.
Here are some of his final pieces. They will give you an idea of what a driving force he was.
His final column, by request