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Obituary: Jim Creagh - UTV stalwart who helped sell the fledgling station to its audience

A man of great dignity and courage who was never short of a story to tell about his distinguished career in the media.

That is how Jim Creagh, former assistant managing director of Ulster Television who has died after a long illness, will be remembered.

The Belfast man was 80, indeed he and his family celebrated his landmark birthday just over a week ago.

Jim's long and distinguished career in the media began as a cub reporter on the Banbridge Chronicle in 1950, and he later recalled those formative days in a private memoir.

After only a year working in Banbridge he became a journalist with the Irish News, where he covered a wide variety of topics as a reporter and theatre critic.

He made his break into the then relatively new world of television as assistant publicity manager of UTV in 1961, working with one of the early local 'gurus' of public relations, Gordon Duffield. This was only two years after the station was established.

Jim quickly gained promotion and in 1964 he became the station's Head of Presentation, Press and Publicity at a time when local television was a novelty and UTV was under the control of the larger-than-life 'Brum' Henderson, who used to refer tongue-in-cheek to UTV as "the fun factory".

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However, there was some truth in his remark at a time when UTV was fresh and experimental, and when staff morale was high. The station quickly made a name for itself, with its coverage of serious news and current affairs, as well as late night educational programmes.

Many of its earlier performers and presenters, including Adrienne Catherwood, Brian Durkin, Jimmy Greene and Tommy James, became instant household names.

Jim was a most capable head of public affairs, with a natural flair for good presentation and an innate understanding of the media business.

He enjoyed a warm rapport with journalists specialising in media and business affairs, who held him in a high personal and professional regard.

His organisational abilities were further recognised when he was appointed assistant managing director of UTV at a turbulent time during the Troubles.

He retired in 1991 and in the early days of his retirement he published a magazine with a wide circulation in the Belfast city area. In the end it became an uphill struggle in a strongly competitive market.

Jim was a devoted family man, with eight children and 24 grandchildren.

His son Liam became a well-known television journalist and programme maker, and earlier this year his youngest son Michael received an Oscar nomination for his short film The Crush.

In 2007 another son, Fr Kieran Creagh, who was then serving as a priest in South Africa, was badly wounded in a shooting incident, and his father and other members of the family went out to his bedside to be with him at that critical time.

Jim Creagh was highly respected by his wide range of professional colleagues and friends.

In recent times he suffered from cancer but he bore his painful illness with great courage and dignity. Even in the midst of this he was still good company, with a wealth of personal stories about his earlier career.

He also remained interested in everything around him right to the end, and he was an inspiration to all who spent time with him.

Jim is survived by his widow Kate and their children, by his three sisters and by the wider family.

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