John McCaughey, journalist, bon vivant, friend and a past editor of The Energy Daily, died on Saturday of heart failure. He was 61.
McCaughey was born to a Catholic family near Belfast, Northern Ireland, when it was not a city in which you wanted to be a Catholic. More remarkable, his father was a member of the strongly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Like many young Irish, McCaughey went to London to make his way in journalism. After a brief stint on a local Irish paper, McCaughey was scooped up by the foreign desk of The Financial Times, where he was a sub editor. He was also the toast of the paper’s staff and a growing circle of admirers across London. In the tradition of George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde, another literary wit from Ireland had arrived to disperse the London fog.
It used to be said of Wilde that he put his talent into his writing and his genius into his conversation. It could be said of McCaughey that he put his talent into journalism and his genius into his dinner parties. London had seldom seen the like of them. And when he moved to Washington, well, they were in the style only the Kennedys were known to approach: Waterford crystal (the Lismore pattern), the best Bordeaux vintages (preferably Chateau La Mission Haut Brion) and fine port (ideally bottled in Holland not in its native Portugal). All this he accomplished while despising garlic, cheese and nuts, except for the nutty flavor of the port.
If you entertained McCaughey, he would always, but always, send you a wonderful piece of writing as a thank you letter. If they had been gathered and published, they would take their place as works of the high art of protocol.
Such a man also had to be a man of friends, and so he was–friends in Washington, England, Ireland , Germany and France. He was a man of Edwardian tastes and formality softened with wit and charm. He loved satire and revered the Irish satirist Jonathan Swift. He liked his church services served in Latin.
He was also a great journalist with a reverence for a well-turned phrase and an intuitive understanding that you could write commercial and industrial news with flair, passion and humor. I hired him as a temporary matter while he got a feel for the United States. He stayed more than a decade and rose to be the editor of The Energy Daily. He was good at his work and brilliant at his play.