STAN GEBLER DAVIES belonged to a breed that one no longer encounters, a rake-hell, rumbustious, very Irish, journalist of great charm, who loved to shock, but who was held in almost equally high affection by those he aggravated as by his friends. He belonged politically to the anarchist right, and stood in the Eighties for the Dail for the Conservative and Unionist Party, which for a less eccentric candidate might easily have earned assassination threats; but Gebler Davies garnered more votes than a more conventional figure would ever have expected.
Stan Gebler Davies was born in Dublin in 1943. His father was Jewish, descended from Polish musicians, and his maternal grandmother had the baby Stan baptised in a Roman Catholic church in Don Laoghaire, for fear of his fate if the Nazis should invade neutral Ireland. She revealed this to him when he was a child, at the time he went with his mother to live in Canada.
When he was told he had incurable lung cancer, half a dozen years ago, Gebler Davies organised a 'last supper' of his friends to say an alcoholic farewell to them all, then underwent surgery that he believed was hopeless, and made a complete recovery. A few days later, I saw him with a girlfriend on one side of his hospital bed and a priest on the other, with Gebler Davies taking his painkiller directly from a bottle of vodka. He attended a Midsummer Night's party just two days before his death, was in ebullient form, but also talking of the approaching death to which he said he was
As a journalist he had an insouciant light style, perfectly suited to Punch for which he wrote until its demise, but in later years he contributed to the Independent and to the Sunday Independent, in Ireland, on a regular basis, as well as occasionally to the Evening Standard, the Daily Telegraph, the Spectator, and a variety of other newspapers and magazines. He produced James Joyce: a portrait of the artist (1975), a small book aimed at the less scholarly reader, and was engaged on a novel at the time of his death. A film script about Oscar Wilde is still awaiting production.
In 1979 I stood as the Liberal candidate for Central Scotland and my political secretary brought her then boyfriend - it was Gebler Davies - with her to be a volunteer press attache. As he seldom rose before noon, his daytime assistance was limited, but he stayed up to all hours fielding phone calls, planning strategy, listening to Beethoven and Schubert (he loved music) and depleting the malt whisky: he was a delightful companion, whose own political views he happily put aside for the occasion. He was a great source of jokes to lard my speeches.
He had the soul of an Irish Whig. In another age he would probably have espoused a nationalist cause, but in a conventionally nationalistic politically correct era, he went the other way. He loved argument, loved company, always shone as a wit among peers for whom it was commonplace and of a high order. In his last years he lived mainly in Co Cork, intending to write more and to attack weightier subjects, but kept in touch with friends everywhere. He loved women and they loved him back with a protective quality.
As a journalist he was successful, but not ambitious, often offering opportunities to others that were too onerous for his own time and effort. It is as a Puck, a Will-o- the-Wisp, that he will be best
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