Belfast Telegraph

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Tributes to 'Big Dave' Culbert, giant of journalism, who has died aged 63

By Alf McCreary

Published 20/01/2016

Respected: Dave Culbert
Respected: Dave Culbert

Dave Culbert, who has died aged 63 after a long illness, was a senior and well-respected journalist who worked for a number of Belfast-based newspapers as well as the BBC's digital news service.

He was the former deputy editor of the Belfast Telegraph's sister paper Sunday Life, and also worked for the Irish News and the now-defunct Sunday News.

Mr Culbert was particularly skilled as a sub-editor and was known for his coolness under pressure, general knowledge and sound editorial judgment when working to tight deadlines.

His skills and dedication were praised by Martin Lindsay, former editor of the Belfast Telegraph, who worked with Mr Culbert on Sunday Life, and also by Irish News deputy editor Stephen O'Reilly, who worked with him during his days on the daily.

Former colleague Joe Mitchell said: "He was always 'Big Dave' to me - big in every sense of the word. He was big-hearted in his dealings with his many friends and colleagues, big-brained in having a vigorous, expansive understanding of what it took to do the job right, and he was also big of stature, at six feet plus.

"As a sub-editor, he instilled confidence and trust in those lucky enough to work with him. He had a granite quality; solid, but not sharp or flinty, with an open and generous nature and a wonderful sense of humour."

On Sunday Life, Saturdays were the big news days, including the infamous terrorist atrocities at Greysteel, the Shankill and Omagh. "We knew that the paper would be torn up and that we would have to begin again from scratch," added Mr Mitchell.

"At such times Dave's depth of experience and sense of calm would make all the difference.

"For the sub-editors, knowing that he was at the helm meant that we could focus on getting the pages away and meeting the deadlines. However, it was not always hard graft, and Dave knew that there was fun to be had, too.

"He would always find ways of making the stark necessity of earning a living more comfortable for his working colleagues."

Mr Culbert is survived by his wife Nuala, daughter Julia, sons John and Luke and by the wider family.

His funeral will take place at 2pm tomorrow at Brown's funeral parlour on the Newtownards Road in Belfast, followed by cremation at Roselawn.

Belfast Telegraph

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