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Robert Maire "Bertie" Smyllie (1894-1954), was editor of the Irish Times from 1934 until his death in 1954.

Short-sighted, massively overweight, given to wearing a poncho and sombrero, and cycling to work with his typewriter slung over the bars of his bicycle and a half bottle of Scotch sticking out of his pocket, he was one of the sights of Dublin.

Smyllie was born in Glasgow. His father was a Scottish journalist who moved to Sligo to edit the Sligo Times. Smyllie was educated at Sligo Grammar School. He entered Trinity College Dublin in 1912. Working as a vacation tutor to an American boy in Germany at the start of World War I, he was interned in Ruhleben, near Berlin, during the war. As an internee, he was involved in drama productions with other cosmopolitan internees and gleaned a wide political education.

On returning, he reported on the Versailles Treaty for the Irish Times, then edited by John E. Healy. He contributed to the still ongoing “Irishman’s Diary” column of the paper from 1927. In 1934, he was appointed editor of the paper, in succession to Healy. He established a non-partisan profile and a modern Irish character for the erstwhile ascendancy paper; for example, he dropped “Kingstown Harbour” for “Dun Laoghaire”. He was assisted by Alec Newman and Lionel Fleming, recruited Patrick Campbell and enlisted Flann O’Brien to write his thrice-weekly column “Cruiskeen Lawn” as Myles na gCopaleen.

Further reading

  • Mr. Smyllie, Sir, by Tony Gray, Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 1991, ISBN 0717117901
  • Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922, by John Horgan, Routledge, 1991, ISBN 0415216419, (pages 37,39,44-45,48, 62)
  • Propaganda, Censorship and Irish Neutrality in the Second World War, by Robert Cole, Edinburgh University

Press, 2006, ISBN 0748622772, (pages 26,37,45,59,77,87,104,138,144,176,183)

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