“Journalist, photographer, documentary filmmaker, documentary film anchor, and, in another life in a galaxy far, far away, actress,” reads Ros Drinkwater’s Twitter profile. But she was so much more.
Ros was also at one time – in an even more distant galaxy – a Vegas showgirl, but for the past 20 years she’s been the Business post‘s Fine Arts critic, delivering its scholarly and humorous copy each week with inimitable style and panache. His abrupt passing last week left his colleagues and friends heartbroken.
For the few who knew she was ill, her brutal battle with stage IV lung cancer was thankfully short, leaving both her loving partner John and her wide circle of friends grappling with the cruel loss of her life. a good-natured friend, a talented and passionate multi-mind and a much-admired intellectual.
Born into an Anglo-Irish family in Glasgow on February 14, 1941, Ros left Scotland for London when she was only 16, after being spotted by the director of a touring theater company. She had taken a part-time job at her local coffee house when, shortly after her arrival, the tour group manager spotted the agile Ros leading the dancers’ warm-up and, on another occasion, noted his ability to intervene and take over from the light manager in his absence.
Soon after, the feathers, glitz and glamor of Las Vegas lured the young dancer to the United States for a time, before she decided to return to London to pursue an acting career.
She was cast in a series of British TV shows, including landing the role of Margaret Garson in Dr Finlay’s Casebook; a detective in Special Branch, Kim in Girl in a Black Bikini and, most famously, as Louise ‘Steve’ Temple, wife of detective novelist and amateur private investigator Paul Temple in the eponymous television series. Co-produced by the BBC and the West German television channel ZDF, the show aired 52 episodes over four seasons from 1969 to 1971.
Shortly after the series ended, Ros tried her hand at photography, a career she admitted to having stumbled into, taking a camera in favor of her partner who, on one particular day, had accidentally – and fortuitously – twice booked on missions. .
Life behind the lens would prove to be more than a visual hobby for Ros, who soon realized an uncanny ability to take a surprisingly good photo, a skill further honed while working on Fleet Street in London.
It was also on Fleet Street that she won her first photography prize, inscribing an image she had brilliantly suggested of a snapshot of her then editor putting an edition of the newspaper to bed one evening. From there, nothing stopped Ros who took up photojournalism and once casually mentioned that one of his first commissions had been for pop iconoclast Andy Warhol.
Her partner, John Finnegan, had family ties to Co Monaghan which brought the couple to Ireland around 25 years ago, after which Ros approached a number of Dublin-based publications offering his journalism skills. She had no idea then that she would become the Irish media’s go-to expert on art and antiques.
“I still vividly remember the first time I met Ros Drinkwater,” said Gillian Nelis, former Business Post editor.
“It was at the old offices of the Business Post on Merchants Quay in Dublin, and Aileen O’Toole, then deputy editor of the paper, called me into her office to meet a smart, well-spoken woman who wanted to write for ownership of the journal section, which I was then editing.
“For many years after that, I had the pleasure of working with Ros and through her learning more than I ever thought I would on topics as diverse as rose pruning and the value of roses. Irish money,” Nelis said.
“One day she came to our house for tea and, during discussions about the deplorable state of our garden, she said casually that she had been a showgirl in Las Vegas in the 1950s and that she had date with Elvis Presley. He didn’t say much, she told us, “He was very boring. My husband and I picked our jaws up on the floor and then poured more tea.”
“In all the years we worked together, I can’t remember Ros missing a deadline or not delivering the parts she promised. She was a true professional and we were lucky enough to to represent us on his travels in Ireland and around the world.His incredible wit, wisdom and knowledge will be missed by all of us.
Ros recently admitted that she was initially reluctant to write about art and antiquities when she was first approached. “When I told John about it, he said, ‘Name three Irish artists,’ and to my great regret I couldn’t,” she said. “A few months later, browsing the store of an art gallery in New York, I almost screamed when I spotted a Sean Scully print. I thought maybe I knew one. little and was ready to learn a lot more, so I reconsidered.
Thus began nearly 20 years of the most deeply colourful, fascinating, engaging and thought provoking fine art coverage in Irish newspapers. Ros had a keen sense of antiquities and a passion for art, which she studied diligently. She had an enviable and exquisite way with words, whether conveying the fashionable gardening trends gleaned from her annual pilgrimage to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show or carrying the reader with her through her richly descriptive.
She also had an amazing work ethic that was matched only by her phenomenal reach. She somehow found time to keep her hand in filmmaking, including writing and presenting documentaries. The most recent, which won Best Documentary Short at the Hong Kong International Film Festival last October, is Beyond the Beyonds, a documentary about the life and work of John Kingerlee, produced by Paul O’ Flynn and directed by Laurence Powell. . It was a prize that gave him immense pride.
Behind her many talents is a kind and inspiring woman, who has always sought the silver lining in any situation. She smiled quickly, had an ineffable charm, a delicious, spontaneous laugh and an enormous capacity for love and was, in turn, enormously loved by all who knew her.
Her friend, auctioneer Morgan O’Driscoll, said: ‘Ros was much admired for her love and passion for the arts, but most of all for her eloquence, her sincerity, her kindness, her friendship and for being such a true lady. .
“She took her abilities, her passion and her talent and shared them with everyone. It was a great privilege to know Ros and she will be greatly missed. May she rest in peace,” he said.
James O’Halloran, Adam’s Managing Director, said: “We have always got on well. She was a pleasure to talk to and everyone at Adam’s loved her. She was the best at what she did in terms of writing. She looked at the press releases we sent her before an auction, but she didn’t use them much; she did her own thing and the features were all the more colorful for it.
“She was a marvel, as far as I was concerned,” said Noelle Campbell Sharp, a gallery owner, philanthropist and longtime friend of Ros’s with whom she often traveled to Dublin and to the Cill Rialaig project in County Kerry.
“She was not only a fantastic arts journalist, but she was exceptionally kind to so many people and that is something rare and something that would always be missed. No matter what your religion or color or who you were, she always been generous, warm, compassionate and loving,” she said.
She was one of a kind and we are devastated by her passing. Godspeed Ros, may you now rest in peace.