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Joe Gorrod: Respected journalist who became household name for his reporting at height of Troubles

In his heyday Joe Gorrod – who has died at 74 – was one of Northern Ireland's best known journalists when the Troubles were at their height.

Joe was a Geordie who came here with the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) to do his National Service. He fell in love with the province and his future wife Eileen, who had served in the Territorial Army, and decided to stay.

"We met one night in the Plaza Ballroom and there was an instant attraction," said Eileen. She and Joe, the handsome Tom Jones lookalike, were married for 53 years.

"Joe fought the cancer courageously that eventually killed him," she said. "He was a wonderful character and we had a good life together."

Joe was always passionate about the newspaper business and after returning to civvy street he joined the old Northern Whig newspaper in Belfast and then spent a few years with the Belfast Telegraph before moving back to England, when he was headhunted by the Daily Express in Manchester.

But he never lost his feelings for Belfast and returned to the city as a staffer in the Express office, where his easy turn of phrase came into its own.

In 1969 he moved to the Daily Mirror office just as the unrest was building in Northern Ireland.

Down the next three decades and a bit Joe covered some of the biggest stories of the Troubles and became a highly respected reporter and a household name.

Later, after a spell freelancing in Belfast and beyond, Joe returned to the Mirror and served another 10 years with the national paper, some of them as news editor.

He accompanied the McCartney sisters on their trip to the White House in Washington to meet the President after their brother's murder.

"Joe never really retired from journalism," recalled his friend, photographer Alan Lewis.

"He couldn't resist writing a good exclusive if it presented itself to him."

One of the Gorrod hobbies was playing war games and he used to set the opposing armies out on a board.

One evening he called Lewis on the phone to declare: "I've just lost the Battle of Britain."

Retired journalist Sid Young, a former head of the Daily Mirror bureau in Belfast, paid tribute to his ex-colleague. "You could always depend on Joe to come up with the perfect story long before a deadline was due. He had contacts everywhere and was respected by many politicians."

And another Belfast Telegraph and Mirror colleague, Alastair McQueen, added: "He was a happy-go-lucky character who never let anything stand in the way of him getting the facts for another headline."

Joe Gorrod is survived by Eileen, son Timothy and daughters Tracy and Joanne, the latter who was a British Airways stewardess once upon a time on Concorde and now lives in Melbourne. He also leaves five grandchildren.

A thanksgiving service for Joe will be conducted in St Malachy's Church in Alfred Street in Belfast on Friday by Fr Michael McGinnity before the remains are cremated at Roselawn.

Belfast Telegraph

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