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Back in black

06 Mar 2024 / people Print

Back in black

We pay tribute to the Gazette’s designer, Nuala Redmond, who died on 6 February having worked on the magazine for 27 years

When I entered the Gazette office for the first time on 13 September 2005, had I not previously known the magazine’s designer Nuala Redmond, I probably would have been as intimidated as hell!

Bolshy and confrontational, the girl in black was donning her trademark red Doc Martins and sported a vermilion-red streak in her otherwise dark hair. Hers and deputy editor Garrett O’Boyle’s first action when I entered the office was to push me into the office of deputy director general Mary Keane.

They sat me down in her chair and took photos that would be used to introduce the new Gazette editor to the world. ‘Bossy’ wasn’t the word for it! And just like Ken Murphy believed that he was in charge as DG at that time, I too thought I was il duce in the Gazette office.

Nuala quickly disavowed me of that notion. I realised that I would need to be five steps ahead of her if I were going to earn her respect. It stood me in good stead when dealing with ‘Bossy-boots Nuala’! Her best means of defence was attack – mine was confusion!

I subsequently discovered in Nuala a Putinesque desire for control. When she was going through a particularly creative phase, her hair would be dyed totally red – something Putin might have admired – but then again there’s red, and there’s red!

Red wine and whiskey

Nuala and Garrett were a double act – I’m conscious of the great love and respect that Nuala held for Gar, right up to her death. She phoned him the day before she slipped into unconsciousness – five days before she lost her gutsy battle – asking him to play a sentence game.

She needed a good laugh, she said, and knew that Gar would deliver. She opened with the words: “Inside I’m dancing…”. I won’t repeat Gar’s hilarious riposte, which was utterly and totally inappropriate, but which elicited a joyful cackle from Nuala!

I, for one, am going to miss those irreverent exchanges between them. Nuala and I had our disagreements from time to time – chiefly with amicable outcomes.

One of those uncontested issues we agreed on, however, was that we had the most professional and wittiest sub-editor working for the Gazette. The standard of excellence displayed in Gar’s editing – and his repartee – saved him from Nuala’s ire on multiple occasions.

The red and the black

Creative tension was always simmering, bubbling, or boiling over in the Gazette – mostly with positive outcomes. There were times when things went too far, of course, and the editor would have to step in firmly, stating: “We’re not having that!”

At other times, of course, Nuala might disagree vehemently with me and retort, much like Meatloaf, “I won't do that!”

That was the beauty of the Gazette with Nuala in it – we weren’t afraid to challenge each other, to experiment, and to fail. If it worked, great; if it didn’t, we were our own critical judges, quickly binning an unworkable idea and brainstorming some more.

More often than not, the results were genius. In order to “import some funk” into the legal profession (as Mary Keane so aptly put it during her recollection of Nuala and the Gazette during the memorial service at Blackhall Place on 10 February), we greatly enjoyed grafting popular culture onto legal concepts in order to make them more digestible – and, dare I say it, funny.

And years before it became a staple of social media, readers of the Gazette were treated to our love affair with furry animals – monkeys, cats (lots of cats), badgers and weasels, to name just some of the menagerie that have featured in the most incongruous of places in the ‘Glorious Gazette’ (as Nuala fondly referred to it).

Beavers were a whole other Gazette taxonomy – regularly appearing under the desks in adverts for the Law Society’s library or in the windows of Blackhall Place.

Place your hands

Sometimes it was just plain silliness. This is how former director general Ken Murphy came to feature in a Gazette photo going over the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Garrett and Nuala had contrived to replace the head of an East German escapee with Ken’s head when we were illustrating an article on international human rights. His place in history was assured.

Popular culture and sci-fi series were, and continue to be, a staple of the Gazette – Star Trek, Star Wars (we’re chiefly ‘Trekkies’, by editor’s diktat), vast arrays of Marvel characters, Batman, and numerous B-movie tropes.

The ‘King of the Monsters’ featured on the cover of the recent December issue with a rather pointed ‘The END is nigh’ headline. Nothing whatsoever to do with Nuala’s cruel diagnosis, which would come in January – but rather with the gripping legal subject of ‘Established Non-conforming Developments’ (with apologies to the conveyancing solicitors among our loyal readers).

The ‘END’ acronym led to the Gazette’s inevitable brainstorming session. Nuala’s imagination did the rest, bringing our ideas to life. It was hers and Gar’s ability to bring chaos to our editorial meetings that led to lots of fun, our brains taking a saunter on the wild side, and churning out brilliant cover and feature concepts.


We have former Gazette editor, Conal O’Boyle, to thank for Nuala coming to the Law Society in 1997. Her impact was immediate, with the magazine taking an Irish Independent/ Communicators in Business Award the same year.

This was followed in 2001 with a PPAI award for ‘Customer Magazine of the Year’. From 2005, Nuala’s creativity and attention to detail played a major role in the Gazette’s many subsequent awards, including ‘Magazine of the Year’ (four times) and ‘Cover of the Year’ (three times), among many other successes.

Her greatest personal achievement was in winning ‘Designer of the Year 2017’ at the Irish Magazine Awards, when the Gazette also took the award for best cover.

For whom the bell tolls

Nuala always wore her heart on her sleeve. If you made a friend in Nuala, you made a friend for life. Her loyalty was unswerving, her dedication nothing less than 100% in everything she did – and woe betide anyone who did not deliver in equal measure!

When she ‘Facetimed’ Garrett and me last April to tell us about her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer – I still marvel at her courage that day – she tackled that problem like she did everything else.

Whether it was working, boating, or partying, it was always 100% of ‘pure Nuala’. She was adamant that, regardless of her failing health, she would not be defined by her illness. She insisted on designing the magazine right up to the recent Jan/Feb issue, of which she had designed more than one-fifth before her ill-health got the better of her.

She never said it, but we knew it kept her sane through those ‘dark nights of our soul’ – and we were so happy to facilitate her in every way we could. I wish to acknowledge the wonderful efforts and dedication of the entire Gazette team during this very difficult period.

Each one has been an amazing colleague whose first wish was to assist Nuala to keep going for as long as possible – and to ease her burden when the time came for her to put away her keyboard on Tuesday 30 January.

That morning, the news wasn’t good. Nuala had suffered a fall at a friend’s home. During her phone call to me that morning, she was still trying to resolve the ‘temporary’ design setback by involving her sister Maeve, also a graphic designer.

That night, she phoned me to say that the fall had been the result of a mini stroke. Reality bit hard when she announced: “I’ve designed my last Gazette. Of course, you know I won’t be designing another Gazette?”

She spoke about the last pages she had designed for the magazine – ‘Lost in the woods’ on pages 42 and 43 – how proud she was of it, but how totally ‘peed’ she was that she wouldn’t be able to finish that feature.

In her brutally realistic way, Nuala was finally facing up to the inevitable – and allowing me to take brief control of the tiller she had held for 27 years.

In her way, she was saying: “Now my watch is ended – over to you.” Nuala was a total pro – she was our colleague and our dear friend. In desktop-design parlance, it’s not ‘control alt delete’ as we say farewell, but ‘control s’ as we think back on so many fond memories of her.

Nuala will always be remembered as an integral member of the Gazette team. We are devastated by her loss – she is irreplaceable in so many ways. Yet Nuala’s design legacy will continue to live on in future evolutions of the magazine, which has her design concepts at its core.

Ride on

It is appropriate here to thank all the members of the Law Society staff and our wonderful team for everything they did for Nuala following her diagnosis last April. I am so proud to work alongside each of you: Garrett O’Boyle, Catherine Kearney, Mary Hallissey, and Seán Ó hOisín; to our freelance journalists and sub-editors Andrew Fanning, Catherine Dolan, and Sorcha Corcoran; and our freelance designers, Eugenea Leddy and Elizabeth McLoughlin.

Elizabeth went above and beyond in ‘taking the baton’ and completing the Jan/Feb Gazette to ‘Nuala’ standard! We send out sincere condolences to her dear son Cian – the one true love of her life – and his partner Padraig Guilfoyle, to Nuala’s partner Peter Power, and her siblings Barry Redmond, Deirdre McNinch, Maeve Kelly, and Fiona Hoey.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam dílis

Mark McDermott is editor of the Law Society Gazette

Mark McDermott
Mark McDermott is the Editor of the Law Society Gazette