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Obituary: Eddie Sterling Snr

Telegraph picture editor covered mayhem of the Troubles and famous nights at Windsor

Eddie Sterling snr, who has died aged 88, was picture editor of the Belfast Telegraph at the height of the Troubles and was involved in arranging coverage of dramatic events for two decades.

But before taking over the desk job in the Tele, Eddie was out in the streets for the paper with his camera, following life as it happened.

As a result, he was a familiar face to many top politicians of the day, including the 'Big Man' – Ian Paisley – who was always willing to pause to let Sterling get his camera in focus.

"Eddie was known for always having a cool head and he had a talent for taking pictures from original and unique angles," says Gerry Fitzgerald, who worked as a staffer under Eddie and later succeeded him on the picture desk.

In the days of the sporting paper Ireland's Saturday Night, with its desperate deadlines, Eddie never failed to make it back from behind the nets at Windsor Park, or from other football grounds around the country with his shots of important goals.

The late George Best had a high regard for Sterling and, on one occasion, allowed Eddie into the dressing-room at Windsor after he had been controversially sent off during a match against England to take a picture with a difference as George lay in the bath.

He was much respected and admired by the Tele's late sports editor, Malcolm Brodie, with whom he travelled to every football ground in the province and to many stadiums further afield.

Photographer Stanley Matchett, who learned his trade under Sterling, says: "I regarded him as one of the most creative men with a camera I ever met.

"He worked hard to get his feature images just right and I admired him greatly."

His only son, Eddie jnr, who was also a Belfast Telegraph journalist, adds: "My father simply adored the newspaper business."

He recalls that, as a boy, he used to go out on jobs with his dad. "I remember once going to watch him talking a picture of a three-legged dog. It was watching him that inspired me to go into journalism.

"He once told me that, if he had been sent out by an editor to take a photo of a barn door, he would return with the best shot possible of a door."

Eddie snr was married twice. Some years after his first wife Etta, who died prematurely from cancer, he married widow Jean and they had a long and enduring relationship. He was born in Manchester, the son of a First World War hero, James Sterling, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre for saving the lives of three Belgian soldiers on the Somme, but he had to take his family to England to find work when the all-clear came.

Back in Belfast with the family, Eddie got a job in the Tele as a delivery boy, but after taking a tumble from his bike, was promoted to film processing and then into commercial photography.

His natural talents – plus terms at night school – led him to the editorial department after a short time.

A thanksgiving service for Eddie Sterling will be held on Friday (11am) at St Nicholas's Parish Church in Carrickfergus, conducted by the rector, the Rev George Davison. He will be cremated afterwards at Roselawn.

The NUJ Group Chapel and Belfast & District Branch said;t "We deeply regret the passing of their esteemed colleague and friend Eddie Sterling Snr, a former Picture Editor of the Belfast Telegraph and life member of the union, and offer sincere condolences to his family and friends".

Eddie is survived by his only son, Eddie jnr, and stepsons Roy and Karl Bennett, stepdaughter Susan and five grandchildren.

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