Belfast Telegraph

Journalism world pays tribute as writer Colin McAlpin dies aged 77

Colin McAlpin at home with one of his books
Colin McAlpin at home with one of his books
One of Colin's byline pictures
Colin McAlpin with granddaughter Scarlett

By Mairead Holland

Tributes have been paid to author and journalist Colin McAlpin who has died of cancer six days after penning his last story for the Belfast Telegraph.

Mr McAlpin (77), who was diagnosed in the summer, had been sharing his experiences of fighting the disease which he insisted on calling cancer with a small 'c' as it "deserves no better".

The father-of-one and grandfather-of-two, who lived in Carryduff, passed away yesterday.

He had been undergoing treatment at the Belfast City Hospital Cancer Centre for five weeks, and in the recent accounts of his illness had highly praised the nursing care he received.

Robin Walsh, the former controller of BBC NI, shared digs with Colin when they were young reporters in Larne almost 60 years ago.

He said: "They were fun times mainly because of Colin's delightful personality and his gift for story telling, which was to serve him so well throughout his remarkable career.

"It was typical of his spirit that his last brilliant piece of journalism in the Belfast Telegraph should have been so positive given what he himself knew."

BBC presenter Tara Mills tweeted: "So very sad to hear about Colin's death. He was a brilliant writer exemplified by his recent work for the Bel Tel."

Former colleague Dan McGinn described Mr McAlpin as "a friend and colleague who was so supportive for three decades... I will miss our chats about family, films, journalism, his love of travel, Blackburn Rovers and Crusaders FC."

Niall Stanage, now a White House columnist in Washington DC, recalled how the first regular 'gig' he had in journalism was writing about music and the arts in Dublin for Mr McAlpin at The Irish News.

"Very sad to hear of his death," he added.

Mr McAlpin had wanted to be a journalist from the age of 11 and, after failing his 11-plus twice, he opted to go to secretarial college instead of university to study shorthand and typing. He landed a job at the age of 16 in the Mid-Ulster Mail newspaper and went on to win awards during a career working as a sports editor, features editor and arts and entertainment editor for a series of Belfast newspapers.

He was also a regular broadcaster on BBC NI and in recent years had worked mainly as a travel writer and was author of a series of books.

At one point, he and his daughter Heidi also co-hosted their own chat magazine radio programme.

Mr McAlpin revealed his cancer diagnosis in a moving interview in the Belfast Telegraph three weeks ago.

He said he had been overwhelmed by the number of well-wishes and prayers after his daughter posted the news of his illness on Facebook, "so much so that, for the first time since I openly faced what had happened to me, I shed tears".

"Not for myself, but for the many kind and loving friends I really had. I have not appreciated how caring they are," he added.

In an update for the paper last Saturday, he said that due to his strong medication, he had "entered the strange world of delusions".

"I see things coming towards me, but I know they aren't real; I know they can't hurt me. But I know they may be hurting the sad, homeless figures we see in doorways in our city," he said.

"These are the people I have passed every day and ignored.

"But if I get out of here, I will make sure I contribute at least a cup of coffee, a sandwich, or even a bone for the inevitable mutt who lies loyally by their side. Will you do the same? This cancer is tougher than I thought, but I am doing my best to fight the little 'c' off."

A funeral service for Mr McAlpin will take place on Wednesday at 10.30am in Roselawn Crematorium.

He is survived by daughter Heidi, son-in-law Ray and grandchildren Scarlett and Freddie as well as by his wife Brenda with whom he remained "best friends".

His family has asked for donations in lieu of flowers to Macmillan Cancer Care.

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