Lives Remembered

Harry McCandless: Drama of IRA Maze escape provided big 'scoop' for respected Co Down journalist

Harry McCandless

SOME journalists wait a lifetime for the big 'scoop' that could define their career.

For Harry McCandless, he was already a respected reporter of 40 years' standing when news broke of the mass IRA escape from the Maze prison in 1982.

The eyes of the world were following the break-out by 38 inmates and the desperate attempts to track them down.

Eight of the prisoners would hide in a house near Dromore, forcing a terrified family to swear on the Bible that they would not contact authorities for three days while the men fled on foot towards the border.

It was Harry who would reveal this dramatic story, with his byline making the front page of The Times.

It was proud moment for the Co Down journalist and also the culmination of four decades dedicated to the craft of news reporting.

Born at Ballaney near Dromore, Harry's entry into journalism was a printing apprenticeship with The Leader newspaper on leaving Tullymacarette school in 1941.

He was taken on as a cub reporter with the Dromore Weekly Times, but after a year decided to branch out on his own and founded McCandless Print in Banbridge.

He started the Banbridge Review, which ran until 1962, before being appointed manager and deputy editor of the Lisburn Herald.

Five years later he went solo as a freelance journalist, establishing himself as a trusted correspondent for newspapers across Britain and Ireland during the Troubles.

He also supplied news to broadcasting media and was a familiar voice on Downtown Radio throughout the 1970s and '80s .

Harry specialised in court work and for many years reported from the daily remand courts in the Maze Prison.

His career eventually came full circle when he was editor of The Leader in the early 1980s.

Harry was a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Press Correspondents Association and helped found the Dromore Chamber of Commerce and the town's horse fair committee.

A keen gardener, he was a past chairman of the Dromore In Bloom committee.

Having been reared close to the Great Northern Railway Line, he was also a railway buff and was fascinated by wartime aviation.

In 1996 he was honoured by Banbridge District Council for 'outstanding service to the community'.

A journalist to the fingertips, he even wrote up the story of his life for the benefit of newspaper editors before his death aged 92 on November 18.

Harry is survived by his wife Josephine (Jo), sons Peter and Maynard, daughter Amanda, son-in-law David, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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Lives Remembered