Northern Ireland

Funeral for Olympic icon and Irish News photographer Hugh Russell to be held in Belfast

The front page of Saturday's Irish News paid tribute to Hugh Russell's storied career with the newspaper.
The front page of Saturday's Irish News paid tribute to Hugh Russell's storied career with the newspaper. The front page of Saturday's Irish News paid tribute to Hugh Russell's storied career with the newspaper.

THE funeral of award-winning photographer and boxing icon Hugh Russell will take place in Belfast on Wednesday.

Tributes to the 63-year-old Olympic and Commonwealth medal winner have poured in since his death last Friday, including from many who met him through his role as a photographer with the Irish News for more than four decades.

Mourners will say their farewells to Hugh, who shot to fame as a boxer in the early 1980s, at a funeral on Wednesday at St Patrick's Church in Donegall Street.

The venue is yards from where he worked in the old Irish News offices after swapping his boxing gloves for a camera and going on to carve out a career as one of the north's best-known and best-loved newspaper photographers.

Media, political and sporting figures have been united in paying tribute to Hugh, whose achievements in the ring were matched by his skills behind a camera, having captured countless iconic images throughout his career as a lensman.

Among his most famous pictures is that of the Guilford Four's Gerry Conlon leaving the Old Bailey in 1989 after his conviction for the pub bombings was overturned.

Speaking of their association with Hugh, Gerry and Heather Watters of the Ulster Museum said they were "shocked and saddened" to learn of his passing.

"We worked with him for many years through all the exhibitions we did at the Ulster Museum," they told the Irish News.

"He was always a gentleman with a great sense of humour and we had the photos to prove it. He will be sadly missed."

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Former IRA prisoner-turned author Richard O'Rawe described Hugh as someone who "brought light and colour into the lives of all who knew him".

Ex-Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said Hugh's boxing success in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, where he won bronze for Ireland, was "the first story I ever covered as a TV sports reporter".

He added in a social media post: "A true gentleman. RIP old friend."

On Sunday, a minute's silence for Hugh was held at Corrigan Park in Belfast ahead of the Antrim hurling club final between Cushendall and Loughgiel.

A death notice published ahead of Wednesday's funeral describes Hugh as the "beloved husband of Kathy, loving and cherished daddy of Hugh, Hayley, James and Calum, loving granda of Aodhan, Archie, Charlie and Freya".