Obituary: Ted had his finger on the pulse of life as well as on his camera

Obituary: Ted had his finger on the pulse of life as well as on his camera

Photographer Ted McCarthy. / /Picture: Richard Mills

I was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from facial surgery after an accident while working for RTÉ News, when Ted McCarthy appeared at the door of the ward in the South Infirmary. 

I was feeling sorry for myself when he popped his smiling face up at the observation panel in the room door, then scratched his hands down the glass, crushing his face into a horrible grimace, mimicking horror at the sight he saw before him.

He opened the door and said: "You should change from television News to horror films, you'd frighten anyone the way you look now."

Ted was irrepressible.... "Can I take a photo of you? Did you damage any parts that can't be seen? Can I look?" he asked.

Fifteen minutes later, as he left saying: "Got a job to do -  with people who look better and are out of bed. Get up as soon as you can."  

My spirits had lifted.

Ted had a great ability to do that, to lift your spirit when you met him, by his positive attitude to life and it was reflected in the memories expressed about him at his funeral this week. 

He was not only a top-class news press photographer, but a journalist of the old-style, traditional approach. 

Before the vast array of modern technology deployed to assist journalists today, Ted was the man on the ground, using his contacts to take news photographs, to be in the right place at the right time. 

That could be in situations of tragedy, of death. 

Wherever it was, Ted was courteous, understanding and sympathetic. A man to whom even those suffering in tragic situations would open up and respond.

Those memories were in my mind at the Ringaskiddy Crematorium as the glass doors closed on his wicker basket coffin and he left us for the last time. 

'When the Saints Go Marching In' played from the audio system. Somehow that seemed appropriate, because, wherever and whenever Ted arrived at the location of a news story, his presence was immediately notable.

My memories of Ted are of a man who laughed often, found humour in difficult situations to relieve the stress of reporting and was a kind, generous person, who gave a lot of help to many people and who did not seek approbation or recognition for doing so.

A Corkman to those fingertips which massaged with brilliance the lens of his cameras, he had "tried being a Seminarian"; as he told me once while driving from one location to another. 

"But we won't go there" he said. So in respect to his privacy I never did. In recent times as his health deteriorated, I noted an often spiritual reference in texts and emails he sent.

With colleagues Dick Cross from the Irish Independent and the Cork Examiner/Evening Echo and Olan O'Brien from his time as RTÉ News cameraman in Cork, we formed the ‘JAGS’ – Journalistically Associated Gentlemen – and met regularly, including making the ‘First Fridays’ mostly at the Enterprise Bar on South Gate Bridge. 

Ted revelled in those gatherings, where he would regale us, staff and patrons, all of whom knew him, with greetings and stories.

That was a notable aspect of Ted's life in the newspapers; a description of journalism from the time before the arrival of modern technology and its all-inclusive term "the media". 

So many people knew him. 

He had a vast range of contacts, so many that I once observed that the size of his "contacts book" – an essential work tool for journalists –must be huge. 

People know me, was Ted's reply. He probably didn't need a contacts book I decided.

When you asked Ted for a picture, he always provided it. He always got it. A picture editor from one of the national dailies to which he provided photographs to during his career, said at his funeral: "He was a pro who never let you down."

Journalism is a tough business and that was a heartfelt tribute to Ted McCarthy, who for many years was The Irish Times photographer in Cork, but whose work also graced the pages of the Examiner/Evening Echo and other national papers.

Over the past year, Ted's health deteriorated, but he maintained his positive attitude to life. 

He spent several periods in hospital, but had an indomitable spirit. He had adapted with ease to modern technology and posted stunning photographs on Facebook, particularly of wildlife at the Atlantic Pond where he loved to relax. But his health problems were impacting heavily. 

We could see it as his friends and we worried about him. 

Remarkably, Ted remained positive about the future, reaching his 80th birthday in the past few weeks, but now, he is gone from our presence.

However, in memory, to me and all those who knew him, he is still smiling.

Ted is survived by his son, Michael and daughters Margaret, Monica and Karen and his former wife, Bernie.

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