Wednesday 16 October 2019

Journalist who shone a light through some of the darkest days

Tom Carson: Worked at the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ for 35 years
Tom Carson: Worked at the ‘Belfast Telegraph’ for 35 years

Alf McCreary

Tom Carson, who has died at 91, was the features editor of the Belfast Telegraph during the worst of the Troubles. He was also the father of TV programme maker Steve Carson who is married to RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan.

Tom Carson worked for some 35 years at the paper, from the 1960s until the early 1990s, and served under a number of editors including John E Sayers, Eugene Wason and Roy Lilley.

Paying tribute, Roy Lilley said: "Tom had a sensitive feel for language and an acute ability to spot writers who could light up a sentence or a paragraph with a single word or phrase.

He was a man of ideas who put a premium on accuracy and detail, and he appreciated the virtues of research and determination."

Edmund Curran, who worked as a feature writer for Carson and later edited the Belfast Telegraph, said: "He shone a light through some of the darkest days in Northern Ireland.

"He developed and expanded the features pages of the paper with insight and with investigations of the Troubles.

"He was also a craftsman of newspaper design, and a most creative journalist."

Tom Carson was born in Belfast on February 7, 1928, his father was chief telegraphist in the newspaper and his mother was a nurse who had served during World War I. He was the first of his family to go to university and he graduated in civil engineering at Queen's.

He learned his trade in small East Midlands weeklies in the early 1950s.He later returned to Northern Ireland and spent the rest of his career with the Telegraph.

Former colleague Louis McConnell said: "Tom was a brilliant journalist and features editor. He was simply a kind man and a good friend.

His son Steve Carson, the former RTE Director of Television who is now Head of Multi-Platform Commissioning at BBC Scotland, said: "I was told by Seamus Heaney that my dad was one of the first people to publish one of his poems.

"He used to take a keen interest in the arts scene, and wrote theatre reviews and other material, and was supportive of the emerging generation of Ulster poets, writers and artists. He was mentioned in James Ellis's book Over The Bridge.

"Dad had a management role but during the Battle of the Bogside he was sent to Derry at short notice and filed a colour piece where he spotted a wedding taking place during the mayhem.

"Capturing love, hope and commitment during a riot was very much my dad."

He was a supporter of peace organisation, the Corrymeela Community, a founder member of the Alliance Party and a member of the National Union of Journalists. He took a lead role in the prolonged strike of Belfast Telegraph journalists in the 1970s.

His first wife, Patricia Miller, was one of the first Alliance councillors. Some 12 years after her death in 1973, he married Kathleen Campbell, a widow, and became stepfather to Teresa, Yvonne, Raymond and Karen.

He is survived by three children from his first marriage - Steve, Linda, who works for a healthcare training agency, and Carol, who is an independent social work consultant.

He is also survived by his wife, stepchildren, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

© Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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