By the time I first met Paddy McGuinness, who died yesterday, his persona was much as I would have expected from the columns I had read in The Australian and then the SMH: rather gruff, given to sweeping pronouncements, but showing a very wide range of interests. This was the mid-1990s; I found our few conversations awkward. His uncommunicative style spilled over into the way he edited Quadrant. You knew your submission had been accepted if it appeared as an article in the magazine, you knew it had been rejected if after a few months there was still no sign of it. Apart from that, total silence.
While I never clicked with Paddy, he did seem to have a talent for friendship cutting across journalism, intellectual life, politics and the arts. This went back to the 1950s when he was part of the Sydney Push. According to Anne Coombs’ book on the Push, Paddy had his first contact with this group aged just twelve, having met some of its members at a science fiction conference. She quotes him as saying that he underwent the ‘usual [sic] adolescent progression from Catholicism to Marxism’ before coming to social democratic views. While at Sydney Uni studying economics he was involved in starting the ALP Club, a split from the Labor Club, which had become a front for the Communist Party. An early swipe at the radical left, the target of much of his subsequent commentary.