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The African trip that changed Logie's life...and why he's determined to broadcast as loudly as he can about work of a Tyrone charity

Former UTV sports anchor reveals how a visit to Zambia has opened his eyes - and his heart - to the plight of that nation's impoverished people

By Stephanie Bell

Published 25/05/2016

Adrian getting up close with a lion
Adrian getting up close with a lion
Adrian rides an elephant on his trip
From left Julian Simmons,presenter,Claire McCollum,UTV Live presenter,Gerry Kelly,Pamela Ballantine,UTV Live Presenter and Adrian Logan,UTV Live sports presenter
Adrian Logan at home
Paul McGirr

Adrian Logan is a man on a mission. Since returning from a trip to Africa, where he witnessed appalling levels of poverty first-hand and up close and personal, the broadcaster is a changed person. The former television sports editor travelled to Zambia with his colleague and friend, freelance cameraman Albert Kirk, to see if and how they could help make people's lives easier.

They came back home with video footage and a yearning in their hearts to do what they can to promote the good work being carried out there by Tyrone-based charity The Spirit of Paul McGirr Trust.

Adrian, affectionately known as Logie during a career of more than 25 years reporting on local television, is as much involved in his beloved sport today as he has ever been.

He first worked for the BBC, and then joined UTV in 1985, putting in stints as a sports reporter, presenter and editor for UTV Live.

His sudden departure from the station came during a raft of redundancies in 2009, with many other big names, including Jeannie Johnston, Ivan Little and Fearghal McKinney also leaving. The huge changes were part of a massive cost-cutting cull at UTV.

Although shaken and angry at the time, Adrian went on to use his skills and his high profile to support numerous local sports in the areas of development and promotion. His recent trip to Africa was a cause close to his heart because he will never forget the shock and sadness he felt at the tragic death of young Tyrone GAA star Paul McGirr  in 1997, who was fatally injured during a game.

Paul, from Dromore, was just 18 when he lost his life after a freak accident involving a collision with a goalkeeper during a Tyrone versus Armagh minor championship match in Omagh.

In 2007, on the 10th anniversary of his death, Paul's family set up The Spirit of Paul McGirr Trust to support a group of SMA missionary priests working to improve lives in Zambia.

Since returning from his trip to a village near the capital Lusaka, Adrian has become determined to do what he can to help raise the profile of the charity and some much-needed funds.

"Paul McGirr was a great footballer and his death was the start of the heartbreak of Tyrone, as he was sadly the first of a number of players in the county to die unexpectedly," he says.

"We just wanted to go out and see what we could do to help. These people in Zambia have nothing - I mean they really have nothing.

"They live in shanty towns in conditions that are really shocking. It would depress you to see it. You definitely come back from there a better person.

"I saw children walking on their ankles because they needed operations. It was very sad.

"I saw one youngster of just five years of age who was deaf and dumb and needed a special wheelchair that costs about £200. The charity built a special needs school over there and they gave this wee boy his chair and he was able to be wheeled to school for the first time.

"We have a video of his wee face lighting up because for the first time in his life he had movement.

"We just heard this week that the wee boy had died. It breaks your heart.

"The charity doesn't just hand money over - it does a lot of work. It is drilling boreholes, building schools and homes and giving people hope.

"One of the things that struck me most over there was the people's smiles. These people have nothing, but they have the most beautiful smiles and faith, and they are so happy.

"Going there was one of the greatest things I have ever done, and I now want to do whatever I can to help raise the charity's profile and awareness of what it does and hopefully get more funding in.

"Every penny donated goes direct to helping the people. The charity's mantra is: 'Not a handout, but a hand up'."

While viewing the trust's projects, the father-of-three also got a chance to take a walk on the wild side.

Visiting a sanctuary for animals, he was snapped getting up close to a lion - a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Adrian (61) was born in Dungannon and still lives there with his wife Monica and children Helen (27), Sean (26) and Michael (24).

His father PJ 'Packie' Logan, was a well-known sportsman, journalist and owner of the Tyrone Democrat newspaper. Even though he did not plan to, Adrian followed in his footsteps. He was into soccer growing up and while still at school wrote a column on the sport for his dad's paper. He planned to go into teaching and studied at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, where he started a GAA club.

The broadcaster was due to spend a year after graduation studying for his teaching certificate in England when the death of editor Sean Hughes at his father's paper led him to become a member of staff, albeit initially as a stand-in.

"Sean died in a tragic boating accident on Lough Erne and my dad asked me to help out and that was it - I cut my teeth working for the Democrat," Adrian recalls.

"It was during the Troubles and we were in what became known as the murder triangle, where there were so many serious incidents nearly every day.

"I then started to do voiceovers for radio, and then joined the BBC under Robin Walsh to do news."

Adrian worked as a reporter for Scene Around Six and Inside Ulster, BBC Northern Ireland's evening news bulletins. He joined UTV in 1985 as a sports reporter and presenter, later becoming the station's sports editor.

He started work there around the same time local television stations were attracting much criticism for their inadequate coverage of Gaelic games.

As a keen GAA supporter, Adrian became UTV's principal reporter on all aspects of GAA, presenting its weekly highlights program The Gaelic Game, and acting as main host and reporter for its weekly GAA magazine series End To End. He was also the main presenter for UTV's World Cup rugby coverage, and also helped develop The Football Show.

He looks back fondly on his time with UTV, despite his headline-grabbing departure, after which he said he had been poorly treated. It is all water under the bridge today and he only has good memories of his 24 years there: "I was blessed to be there and do what I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed it," Adrian says.

"I got to travel the world, covering Six Nations rugby, the soccer World Cup and other events. I do miss not being on the cutting edge of sport and I will miss not covering the European Championship this summer. I would have been stuck in the middle of that.

"You went to work every day not knowing what you would be doing. It was so much fun, it wasn't a job at all.

"Change happens and they wanted change and I was sad to leave, but that is part and parcel of life. I miss all the great people I worked with, but you have to try and look forward.

"I've been keeping busy as a freelance and I enjoy what I'm doing now, and am still very much involved in sport."

Adrian is an ambassador for McLean Bookmakers, helping to raise the company's profile and appearing on its radio and TV ads.

He is also a popular compere for sporting events and is involved in event management helping McLean's and other companies as well as local sports improve the way they look at and stage events.

For the past few years he has worked closely with the organisers of the North West 200 motorcycle races, helping to improve it for fans.

He is particularly proud of how successful the Golf Classic staged during the event has become, with many big names in local sport now taking part in the tournament.

"Life is busy, and of course it could always be busier - there is nothing like a busy week," he says.

"I have been planning and trying to improve different events for others, and it keeps me involved in the sports that I love like GAA, soccer, rugby and motorbike racing.

"I love it and I am still doing some football reporting for BBC radio, which I also really enjoy."

As well as supporting The Spirit of Paul McGirr Trust, Adrian is patron of the mental health charity Cause.

He is a devoted family man, and all three of his children work behind the scenes in the movie business.

To celebrate his birthday recently, the whole family travelled to Barcelona for what was a momentous day for Adrian - seeing his footballing hero Lionel Messi play for the first time.

It is something he is not sure he will rush into doing again, though, as he explains: "I've never seen Messi play, and to me he is the greatest footballer of all time, even better than George Best.

"I actually played indoor football with George Best, and he was as gentle a fella and as lovely a fella as you would ever meet. He was fantastic.

"I finally got to go see Messi a few weeks ago. Barcelona had 29 unbeaten games at that stage, and the day I went they were beat.

"They had five games left after that and won all five. That's one that is going to be hard to live down."

Adrian was never comfortable with the celebrity that came with being on local TV. Even today, when he is still as well-known as ever in sporting circles, he is content to quietly continue doing what he loves best - immersing himself in sport and, now, trying to make a difference to the lives of people less well off than the rest of us.

  • To find out more about the work of the charity in Zambia or to support it, go to www.spiritofpaulmcgirr.org

Belfast Telegraph

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