Lives Remembered

Jimmy McKinney: Gentle and genial Irish News man

Jimmy McKinney pictured on his 92nd birthday last September

IN the days when newspapers were forged with hot metal and heated debate in cacophonous print rooms, Jimmy McKinney was an oasis of calm.

Throughout almost 40 years with The Irish News he was universally liked for his gentle and cheerful manner, his kindness and ability to get on with everyone.

He first joined the production floor on Donegall Street in the mid-1950s, taking his seat at the hulking rows of linotype machines which cast lines of lead type from 90-character keyboards.

He progressed to the composing stone, where columns of text were measured out with string on metal sheets, eventually taking charge of the industrial operation before retiring as production manager in 1993.

Jimmy McKinney with Irish News chairman Jim Fitzpatrick and former production manager Peter O'Reilly

It was hard work during many dark nights in Belfast city centre - printing once had to rapidly relocate due to a bomb blast at the front of the building.

But through it all Jimmy somehow always maintained a calm head and jovial disposition.

He lived until the age of 92 and would say he enjoyed a great life in good company.

Tributes from his many friends have described him simply as one of the nicest men you could ever met.

Although he lived most of his life in south Belfast, Jimmy was born in Armagh in 1928.

His mother was the sacristan at St Malachy's Church and he and his four sisters grew up in a happy home in the warm embrace of faith, family and friends.

Jimmy would be a daily Mass-goer throughout his life and remain closely involved in the life of the Church.

In younger years he was an accomplished sportsman - a cross-country runner, an under-21 Gaelic footballer for Armagh, as well as a promising boxer.

However, he met his match one night at a dance in the form of young Fermanagh nurse Kathleen Maguire.

Besotted at first sight, Jimmy later invited her to watch him fight - in a bout which saw him pummelled by a young Italian.

Kate offered him a choice of rings - the boxing one or her engagement ring back. There was never a contest.

The young couple lived in England for a few years but returned to Belfast and settled in Knockbracken Park.

They took up bridge and worked well together, even if Jimmy sometimes struggled to adhere to the game's strict conventions.

They also made a good team on the golf course - Jimmy usually as faithful caddie to Kate.

His own passion was for bowls and he made many friends through the game.

Jimmy was a fluent Irish speaker and wore his gold fáinne with pride.

He and Kate were also extremely proud of their two daughters, Carmel and Sheena, bringing them up to be bright and compassionate women.

Jimmy with his daughters Sheena and Carmel

When his wife died in January 2016, Jimmy told them he was in the waiting room of this life and looked forward to them dancing again in their Heavenly home when his time came.

During lockdown he found more time to feed his voracious reading habit, as well as follow Mass online from churches throughout the world.

He loved the poetry of John O'Donohue and one line perhaps summed up his own life:

“You would want us to find you in presence, in beauty which brightens, where kindness glows and in music which echoes eternal."

Jimmy McKinney passed away peacefully on January 8 after months of care from his devoted family.

He was laid to rest at Roselawn Cemetery following Requiem Mass at St Bernadette’s Church.

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