New Year’s Eve is traditionally a day for looking both backwards and forwards, and as we stand on the threshold of 2023, we can reflect on events which took us by surprise to remind us of John Lennon’s aphorism that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”.
Viewed from the perspective of December 31 last year, there are matters which would be very familiar. Then, as now, there was considerable concern about climate change. Then, as now, we were hugely exercised by Covid-19, with its potential to destroy lives, economies, and morale.
But what was not foreseen was the horrendous war unleashed by Vladimir Putin]url], a crime which appears more deranged as each day passes, and the accelerant it provided for outlandish rises in energy costs and a, as yet-untamed, cost-of-living crisis. We can expect both to determine our national priorities in the new year.
The future must take care of itself. For now, it is appropriate to give some thought to who we have lost over the past 365 days.
Among those who gathered the most headlines were women from very different backgrounds.
Aoife Berry, 27, one of the survivors of the Berkeley, California, balcony collapse in 2015, died as the year opened. Vicky Phelan, the redoubtable and inspirational cervical cancer campaigner passed at the age of 48 in November. She was the first person to speak publicly about the cervical check controversy four years ago. Just three weeks earlier, another powerfully eloquent advocate Lynsey Bennett died age 34.
In January, the nation was shocked and grieved visibly following the death of young primary teacher and gifted musician Ashling Murphy while she was jogging near the Grand Canal in Tullamore, Co Offaly. A man is due to face trial this summer.
Britain’s queen, Elizabeth II, died as the country’s longest reigning monarch after 70 years on the throne and at the age of 96. Her departure symbolised for many the end of Old England and her state funeral was attended by 2,000 guests and dignitaries from around the world with more than 1m people on the streets of London to watch the cortege pass.
A global audience of billions observed the pomp and pageantry after 10 days of official mourning.
Another type of queen, Vivienne Westwood, who created punk fashion, died as the year ran out of time.
In sport, 2022 had just three days to go when the world lost perhaps its most recognisable living legend, the peerless Brazilian footballer Pele, of whom it can rightfully be said that he was “the greatest of all time”. He was an ambassador with dignity and humility to match.
Sports fans around the world were saddened by the death of Shane Warne, the Australian larrikin who was one of cricket’s greatest spin bowlers and entertainers, from a heart attack at the age of 52 in March.
Racing lost its most famous jockey, the nine-times Derby winner Lester Piggott at the end of May when he was 86. He won his first race at the age of 12 in Haydock Park in 1948.
We bade farewell to Munster and Ireland rugby legend Tom Kiernan, in his time the most capped player and record points scorer, who died in February aged 83.
Tom coached Munster to their famous win over the All Blacks in 1978, and masterminded Ireland’s 1982 Triple Crown success.
A contemporary, captain and hooker Dr Ken Kennedy, also left us at the age of 81, as did Leinster centre Kevin Flynn, 82, scorer of a memorable match-winning try for Ireland at Twickenham 50 years ago.
Cork said goodbye to one of its most famous sons, the former railwayman “Gentleman” Frank O’Farrell, the only Irishman ever to take charge at Old Trafford. He was 94.
Billy Bingham, who played for Everton and Northern Ireland and managed his national team in the World Cup finals of 1982 and 1986, died age 90.
Former international Noel Campbell, the first Irishman ever to play in the Bundesliga, died in June, aged 72.
Meanwhile football and society was shocked by the death of Red Óg Murphy in April at the age of 21, sparking a debate about mental health and support services within sport.
A Gaelic football legend, Brian Mullins, died in September age 68.
Many artists, writers, actors, and entertainers left the stage in 2022, bequeathing us indelible memories.
Angela Lansbury, who had strong connections with Ireland, and Cork in particular, died at her Los Angeles home aged 96.
Other losses were veteran RTÉ correspondent Jim Fahy, 75; Pete St John, 90, writer and composer of ‘The Fields of Athenry’, the Irish folk epic heard on sports grounds across the world, a tale of a man exiled to Botany Bay for stealing food to feed his family during the Famine; also dead at 90 was the travel writing and cycling adventurer Dervla Murphy; Clannad founding member Noel Duggan died at 73, a year older than Boomtown Rats founder Garry Roberts.
Christine McVie, one of the great songbirds of the rock era, who closed her keyboard at the end of November, was 79.
Olivia Newton John, forever memorable as Sandy inwas 73 when she died, a year younger than Meat Loaf, who died with several reports suggesting he had suffered badly with Covid.
Another big man left us when actor Robbie Coltrane, famous for his roles inand Hagrid in the franchise died at 72 in October, while acting lost a groundbreaking star when Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a best actor Oscar, succumbed to heart failure and dementia at 94.
Actor Ray Liotta, famous for his role as a mafia wiseguy in, died peacefully in his bed aged 67. Another “made man”, James Caan, immortalised as the combustible Sonny Corleone in left us at 82.
When the animator and storyteller Raymond Briggs died this summer at the age of 88, he had already published his own plangent and moving meditation on old age and death, Time For Lights Out. He includes a quote from DH Lawrence — “be careful, then, and be gentle about death” — over a drawing of two doors, one firmly closed, the other slightly ajar, but with a shadow on it as though someone is about to pass through.
Many we know have gone through that door in 2022, including one of our own, publishing giant Ted Crosbie. As the year turns, take a moment to remember, and honour, their absence.