Patrick Cosgrave

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Patrick John Francis Cosgrave[1] (28 September 1941 – 16 September 2001)[1] was an Anglophile Irish journalist and writer, and a staunch supporter of the British Conservative Party. He was an advisor to future Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, whilst she was Leader of the Opposition.

Early life and education[edit]

Patrick Cosgrave was the only child of an improvident builder,[2] who died from cancer when Patrick was ten, leaving his mother impoverished.[3] She took work as a cleaner in the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle.[4] Cosgrave rebelled against the severe Roman Catholic piety of his mother and his teachers at St. Vincent's C.B.S. in Glasnevin.[2][3] He acquired a love of British history aged 14, while reading as a convalescent from rheumatic fever.[2] He read works by Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchill, and Lawrence of Arabia.[4]

At University College Dublin (UCD), he was influenced by Desmond Williams, professor of history.[4] He embraced the epithet "West Brit";[5] at a debate, when an opponent accused him of being "to the Right of Douglas-Home", he retorted that he was "to the Right of Lord Salisbury".[6] He claimed that his grandfather, a warden in Mountjoy Prison, had beaten up Kevin Barry, a Republican rebel executed in 1920.[3] He partnered Anthony Clare to win the Irish Times debate and the Observer Mace debate,[2] and was elected auditor of the Literary and Historical Society in spite of his unpopular pro-British views.[3]

At Cambridge University he switched from "Paddy" to "Patrick",[4] and earned a doctorate in history from Peterhouse.[2] His supervisor was Herbert Butterfield, whom he later described as "the greatest influence on my life I can define".[6] He was among the Peterhouse alumni nicknamed "the reactionary chic" by the New Statesman.[6]


Having freelanced for Radio Telefís Éireann while at UCD, he was appointed their London correspondent in 1968,[1] before working at the Conservative Research Department from 1969, where he became a Zionist.[3] He became political editor of The Spectator in 1971,[2] where his numerous, often scathing, articles about Ted Heath's leadership were influential in effecting the change to Margaret Thatcher,[1][5] and earned him the nickname "The Mekon".[1]

When Thatcher first saw him speaking on television, she reportedly dismissed him as a "typical upper-class public school twit", to his subsequent delight.[6] In 1975, he became her advisor while she was Leader of the Opposition.[2][6] He seemed on the path to a safe seat in Parliament and ultimately a cabinet post.[6] However, Thatcher dropped him after winning power in the 1979 general election,[2] by which time his heavy drinking was impairing his reliability.[1][3] Private Eye suggested Thatcher dropped him because he had vomited on her in a taxi,[1] though the story is disputed.[3]

Subsequently he was briefly editor-in-chief of Tiny Rowland's Lonrho publications.[2] He had first attracted Rowland's attention in 1973 after criticising in The Spectator Ted Heath's calling Lonrho "the unacceptable face of capitalism".[7][8] After this, earning a precarious living as a freelance journalist and by writing books, mainly political biographies.[3] Among other publications, he wrote for The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Irish Times, The Irish Press, the Literary Review, Encounter, the New Law Journal, and Le Point.[5]


Cosgrave's first book was a review of the poetry of Robert Lowell.[9] Martin Seymour-Smith derided the book, but Lowell agreed with Cosgrave's criticism of "Mr Edwards and the Spider", and dedicated a rewritten version to him.[9]

His 1978 biography of Margaret Thatcher was faulted for hero-worship;[3] George Gale called it "not much above a hagiography".[1] His biography of Enoch Powell, whom he also admired, was made with access to Powell and his correspondence,[1] and was the work of which he was most proud.[2] He completed only the first volume of a planned two-volume study of Winston Churchill during World War II.[10]

He published three mystery novels featuring the daring Colonel Allen Cheyney.[11]

Personal life[edit]

He obtained a British passport[2] and sometimes attended services of the Church of England, while remaining agnostic.[2][5] In contrast to his public image as a vigorous polemicist, he was considered kind and courteous in private.[1][3][5]

He married three times and divorced twice.[1][3] His first marriage in 1965 was to Ruth Dudley Edwards, a fellow student at UCD and, later, Cambridge.[6][12] He married Norma Green, mother of his daughter Rebecca, in 1974; and Shirley Ward, his widow, in 1981;[1][3] she was secretary of the European Democrats at the European Parliament.[4]

He had financial problems from the late 1970s and when Green left him in 1980, Rebecca was made a ward of court.[13] In 1981 the Inland Revenue filed a tax demand for over £10,000 and he was declared bankrupt.[13] His debt of £18,700 was discharged in 1985.[13]

He died of heart failure.[4] His poor health was exacerbated by heavy drinking and smoking.[2][3]




  • Impressions of Israel. Anglo-Israel Association. 53. London: Anglo-Israel Association. 1975. 
  • Israel Revisited: address to the Anglo-Israel Association. Anglo-Israel Association. 78/2. London: Anglo-Israel Association. 23 February 1978. 
  • The defence of Britain. Salisbury papers. London: Salisbury Group. 1978. 
  • The origins, evolution and future of Israeli foreign policy. Sacks lectures. 6. Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies. 23 May 1979. 
  • George Richey (1985). NATO's strategy: a case of outdated priorities?. Occasional paper. London: Alliance Publishers for the IEDSS. ISBN 0-907967-40-X. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Obituary: Patrick Cosgrave". The Daily Telegraph. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Obituary: First rate brain that loved to provoke". The Irish Times. 22 September 2001. p. 16. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Dudley-Edwards, Ruth (18 September 2001). "Obituary: Patrick Cosgrave". The Independent. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Fanning, Ronan (23 September 2001). "Northsider who was, briefly, Tory insider". Sunday Independent. p. 74. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Pearce, Edward (17 September 2001). "Patrick Cosgrave: English-loving Irish journalist who blasted Edward Heath". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Crowley, Jeananne (28 January 1978). "Patrick Cosgrave: Immigrant Chic". The Irish Times. p. 9. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  7. ^ Morrissey, James (15 June 1980). "Patrick Cosgrave: from Finglas to British newspaper chief". Sunday Independent. p. 11. 
  8. ^ Cosgrave, Patrick (7 August 1998). "Obituary: Tiny Rowland". The Independent. p. 7. 
  9. ^ a b Cosgrave, Patrick (24 September 1977). "Robert Lowell". The Spectator (239): 26. 
    reprinted in Lowell, Robert (1988). Jeffrey Meyers, ed. Robert Lowell, interviews and memoirs. University of Michigan Press. pp. 222–4. ISBN 0-472-10089-0. 
  10. ^ Rasor, Eugene L. (2000). Winston S. Churchill, 1874-1965: a comprehensive historiography and annotated bibliography. Greenwood. p. 388. ISBN 0-313-30546-3. 
  11. ^ Gorman, Edward; Martin Harry Greenberg (2002). The world's finest mystery and crime stories (third annual ed.). Forge. p. 37. ISBN 0-7653-0235-7. 
  12. ^ Dudley Edwards, Ruth (4 November 2007). "It is the mischief and laughter that I'll miss most about Tony". Irish Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2009. 
  13. ^ a b c "Bankrupt granted discharge by court". The Irish Times. 13 March 1985. p. 8. Retrieved 20 April 2009.