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Death of renowned and respected journalist Harry McCandless

Harry McCandless  -  © private

2 January 2020

Henry Frederick McCandless (Harry), member of the mid-Ulster branch of the National Union of Journalists and a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Press Correspondents Association, died aged 92 on November 18, 2019.

He was the fifth son of William and Mary McCandless. Harry married Josephine (Jo )Wilkinson in 1950 and had two sons and a daughter – Peter, Maynard and Amanda.

On leaving Tullymacarette school in 1941, he entered the printing and newspaper business with the Leader in Dromore. Although he served an apprenticeship to the printing trade, he showed a marked tendency towards journalism and in 1946, at the invitation of the management, he entered the Dromore Weekly Times as a cub reporter.

However, after just over a year working on the paper, he decided to branch out on his own in the printing business. In July 1947, he founded the firm of McCandless Print in premises at Commercial Road in Banbridge.

With newspapers still in his blood he started a monthly paper, the Banbridge Review, which was launched as a weekly in June 1950. The paper ran until 1962 when it became no longer financially viable. The paper gave the title to the firm The Review Press, which continued as a commercial printing enterprise.

Harry then worked for a friend in the north of England for a subsidiary publishing company, which was part of the Daily Post and Echo, before returning to Northern Ireland to take up a post with the Portadown News. In 1963 he was appointed manager and deputy editor of the former Lisburn Herald.

Five years later he branched out as a freelance journalist and built up a network of connections which established him as an accredited correspondent of regional and national newspapers across the UK, as well as the Dublin dailies. He was also a correspondent of the Press Association. He provided news coverage for the broadcasting media and throughout the 1970s and 80s, he was a familiar voice on Downtown Radio's news programmes.

He specialised in court work and covered court sittings in Belfast, Newtownards, Downpatrick, Lisburn and Banbridge and represented the daily papers and broadcast media at daily remand courts in the Maze Prison. A considerable amount of his work involved local and central government and during the Troubles he covered many major stories for the regional and national media.

His biggest scoop was in 1982 and involved the much-publicised IRA prisoners' escape from the Maze Prison.

From 1981 until 1985, he worked on a freelance basis as editor of The Leader when the paper was owned by the Hawthorne family. Later, for several years, he worked on stories for the Morton Group.

He was a member of the mid-Ulster branch of the National Union of Journalists and a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Press Correspondents Association.

Outside his work, Harry was involved in community activities; he was a founder member of the Dromore Chamber of Commerce, co-founder of the town's horse fair committee and founder and former chairman of the Dromore In Bloom committee. He also helped to organise the Dromore civic weeks in the 1970s. In 1996, he was honoured by Banbridge District Council for 'outstanding service to the community'. He was a keen gardener. Harry was a member of First Dromore Presbyterian Church and for several years in the 1950s was a tenor singer within the Banbridge Choral Society. Having been reared close to the Great Northern Railway Line, he became something of a railway buff and was particularly interested in steam locomotives. He was a former member of the Railway Preservation Society. Harry also had a keen interest in aviation, especially war planes, and had an innate knowledge of fighter and bomber aircraft and their designers.

(Harry McCandless, 29 September 1927-18 November 2019)

Tags: , Henry McCandless, Northern Ireland Press Correspondents Association, obituary