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Journalists in tribute to veteran newsman Colin Duncan following sudden death

By Ivan Little

Published 11/03/2016

Well respected: Colin Duncan
Well respected: Colin Duncan

A number of Northern Ireland's best-known reporters have paid emotional tributes to former Downtown Radio journalist Colin Duncan who has died suddenly in Belfast.

Sky TV correspondent David Blevins tweeted that Colin was "an absolutely brilliant journalist from whom I learned so much at Downtown".

Another former Downtown man, Mark Simpson, who is now with the BBC, echoed the sentiments as did South America-based journalist Gary Duffy, a former Ireland correspondent for the BBC

Mr Duffy said that Colin, who was in his late 50s, made everyone he worked with into better journalists.

Eamonn Mallie, who was a Downtown colleague of Colin's over many years, said: "The newsdesk sang when he was on duty."

Former Press Association editor Deric Henderson said: "Colin was hugely gifted and massively well-respected in the business."

Former UTV presenter Alison Fleming described Colin as "an incredible journalist" and the station's political correspondent Ken Reid said he was not only a fine reporter but also a decent human being.

Colin, who was from north Belfast, started his journalistic career with the Ballymena Observer newspaper.

I was one of Downtown Radio's duty editors in the late 1970s and it's fair to say that Colin didn't so much arrive at the station as explode like a whirlwind onto the reporting staff.

He wasn't the sort of journalist who would sit back and wait for editors to hand him an assignment.

Even on a quiet Sunday morning when many of us were battling hangovers from the night before and looking to put out bland, easily-compiled bulletins, Colin would be on his toes suggesting new stories to cover or pushing for fresh angles to be followed up.

There literally wasn't a dull moment with Colin. Or a dull news story.

It was no surprise that later on Colin made the natural progression from reporting the news to shaping it as a duty editor. He became a crucially important fixture with Downtown over a lengthy period before deciding to plough new furrows.

BBC Radio Foyle didn't quite know what hit it when Colin breezed into town. His individualistic flair was quickly spotted in Broadcasting House in Belfast where he was brought on board to add a heavyweight punch to the Talkback programme, though he didn't go the distance in the Beeb for a myriad of reasons.

Colin also had an all-too-short sojourn at UTV, shaking up the newsdesk with his own distinctive slant on how the stories of the day should be tackled, but his talents later took him to London where he was recruited by the Press Association.

He was perhaps the least likely glad-hander imaginable but Colin surprised us all by joining the public relations department of an English local government body before returning home to work for Hansard, helping to compile verbatim reports of proceedings in the Assembly.

Colin is survived by his son Ryan and daughter Carly and his funeral will be to Roselawn crematorium after a service at Melville's funeral parlour, York Road, Belfast, at 2.30pm next Wednesday - which by a strange irony is the 40th anniversary of Downtown Radio's first broadcast.

Belfast Telegraph

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