John Coughlan and his wife Margaret (c) 1970s

Regular visitors to the site will know that some of the best content on Brand New Retro comes from New Spotlight magazine.

Its publisher was John Coughlan who launched Spotlight magazine in Cork in 1963. Issue 1 sold 2,000 copies and as readership grew the format changed to tabloid size and John launched Spotlight as a national pop monthly. Production moved to Dublin in late 1964 and ‘New’ was tagged on to the title. By 1966 New Spotlight had sales of 55,000 with 200,000 readers and in 1967 it went weekly.

But it wasn’t just New Spotlight. Other publications from John include Starlight, Irish Householder and the racy Man Alive.

Aged 69, John passed away in February 2013.

Below, as a guest post for Brand New Retro, John’s daughter Louise speaks highly of her dad and the days on his first ever magazine.
John Coughlan – A legacy in his own right

John Coughlan – Mid 1960s

It all started in the 60’s when show band music was very big and cropping up all over the place.  At the time John was working as a cub reporter in the Cork Examiner with his dad Steve who was Editor in Chief, but he always wanted to start his own music magazine.  He approached Murt Lucey and asked if he would like to back him in this new venture, Murt agreed and they became partners.   Sales of the magazine exceeded 45,000, so he made the move to Dublin.   Soon after John met his wife Margaret and they became the golden couple.

There was a great atmosphere in Spotlight, and Donal Corvin, James Morrissey and Sam Smith were the core workers.  John treated his staff very well and one hour lunch would sometimes go on for a few hours.  On the first issue Brenda Lee “Little Miss Dynamite” was on the cover.

John met all the big stars of the day including The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Phil Lynott, Roy Orbison, Tom Jones to name but a few.  He even presented the Beach Boys with an award. 

John with the Beach Boys backstage in Belfast – from New Spotlight May 1967

John was very generous with his time and would often give young writers a break.  Donal Corvin interviewed the late Terry Wogan and Roy Esmond took the photographs.  Donal also met the famous Peter O’Toole, but unfortunately the article did not make the Spotlight magazine. 

At the TV Club – l to r, Jim Aiken, Tom Jones, Michael Hand and John Coughlan, Margaret Coughlan

John ran a celebrity night every Monday in The Television Club in Harcourt Street where all the stars would attend.  He and Margaret would hold court.  John was passionate about music and enjoyed networking with the popular music bands. 

In the later years, John started another magazine called Starlight, which wasn’t as big a hit as Spotlight.  He had a keen interest in travel and went on to publish the successful Holiday Magazine.  He liked nothing more than to tend to his garden and so he came up with the idea of Autumn Home and Springclean magazine.  These were published in conjunction with the RTE programme Live At Three with Derek Davis and Thelma Mansfield.

John may have passed away over three years ago, but he has given so much inspiration to a lot of people that his legacy will live on.

Photos from Coughlan family collection and New Spotlight.
Check out Louise’s travel blog here


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hey Louise,
    Nice piece on your dad! I did’nt realise just how much influence John had on the music/entertainment industry in Ireland. As the saying goes “he was before his time ” in relation to the music industry. He was so ahead of the game with “Householder & Gardener” and “Man Alive”. Ever think of writing you dad’s autobiography? -a serial entrepreneur!!!!!!

    Well done Lou.

    Kindest regards

    Phillip Green

    PS this brand new retro site is excellent. Well done to all concerned

  2. Louise
    Your father was a great man and a wonderful friend. He gave me my first job when I was a student at UCD. Working with Spotlight was great fun…a kind of holiday camp …people writing horoscopes, Larry Gogan reviewing records…Donal Corvin, Liam Collins, Sam Smyth, Paschal Mooney, Factna O’Kelly, Jim Flanagan, Julie Boyd, Pat Egan, Michael Kiely…others on the team – Jim Carew, Leo Mooney, Tommy Shortall, Philip Green, Jim Palmer, Liz McHugh, Deidre Plummer, Maureen Shudel. Fun times…James Morrissey

  3. hey louise, i will always fondly remember your father. even though we, seemingly, came from opposite ends of the musical spectrum he was actually far more open than i was. he was always up for a strongly held opinion and i enjoyed his mischievous character as instanced by the time he delegated me to interview big tom and review his new record. much hilarity was had by all. i also met many fine writers and people such as donal corvin, sam smything, james morrissey and others. ar dheis de go raibh a anam dilis. fachtna o ceallaigh

Comments are closed.

Close Menu