Northern Ireland news

Remembering the characters of 'my Irish News'

Gerry McLaughlin worked at The Irish News in Donegall Street in the early 1990s

Gerry McLaughlin, who worked in the sports department of The Irish News in the early 1990s, recalls the characters that populated "some of the happiest days of my life"


I remember the old blue building in Donegall Street, that was my home from 1989-1993.

I remember the roar of the printing press, like the clickety-clack of a train on a track.

I remember the inky smell of fresh print as you walked out the back door of my Irish News.

And I remember the crashing typewriters, and the sacramental silence of the subs desk as Francie Mooney, Dan Keenan and Ciaran McKeown made sense of some of our more contentious copy.

The quick-stepping Sean Treacy was on wheels as he flew through the newsroom, busy as a bee, the marketing man bringing "the News” to every part of the Fourth Green Field.

And who could forget the soft, honeyed tones of Terry McLaughlin as he got a young reporter to write another scorcher (as he did me on my second day in the place). For Terry believed in afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted whenever he could.

Matt Rossbotham, or 'Tracker', came in with a leather swagger. The doyen of the dogs, the tar of Belfast in his every tone.

Cyril Thackaway, that taut genius who could make a page sing and was patient with my earlier gauche efforts.

Brendan Murphy, the snapper who was like Lee Van Cleef – with the eternal salty eye of the artist as he played verbal volleyball with his sidekick, Hugh Russell.

We had John Foster, the great door-stepper who worshipped wit.

Colin McAlpin always had the stars in his eyes and loved Crusaders and Meryl Streep unconditionally.

And my old buddy, the restless Henry McDonald – the James Cagney junior of the newsroom who nearly always got the yarn and the girl.

My colleagues on the sports desk, the eclectic Tony McGee and Eamonn O’Hara, tried to keep me between the ditches – not always successfully.

And I will be forever grateful to editor Nick Garbutt who took a chance on me, and to gentleman Jim Fitzpatrick (Snr) for his kindness in dark days.

Across the street, we drank long and deep in the Front Page where the movie stars stared down as we climbed the stairs of my earlier youth where the music never died.

John McElhattton (Jnr) was Belfast’s most eligible and wittiest of bachelors. But he could never better the great Marty Lundy, the dark poet of the black streets of south Belfast.

These were some of the characters of this country boy’s Belfast, as were strong women like Barbara Graham, Kathleen Bell, Pauline Reynolds, Carmel Robinson, Suzanne Breen, Ruth O’Reilly, Martina Purdy, Liz McPherson and Jo McClean. I was in awe of them all.

They are all forever in my heart, when we were young and wore the bright and beautiful armour of youth… in my Irish News.


Northern Ireland news