Ex-‘Journal’ reporter Harry Doherty dies

Harry Doherty with Queen guitarist Brian May in 2011.
Harry Doherty with Queen guitarist Brian May in 2011.

The death has taken place in England of former ‘Derry Journal’ reporter and renowned music critic, Harry Doherty.

Mr. Doherty, formerly of Richmond Crescent in the city, passed away on Sunday at the Royal Free Hospital in London.

Harry Doherty (centre) pictured in the late 1970s with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott.

Harry Doherty (centre) pictured in the late 1970s with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury and Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott.

Mr. Doherty, who’d been living in Portsmouth in the south of England, had been back in Derry in January for the funeral of his mother, Margaret.

After leaving the ‘Journal’ in the mid-1970s, Harry relocated to England to take up a job with respected music newspaper ‘Melody Maker’ and, during his time there, championed the careers of, among others, Kate Bush, Thin Lizzy, Queen, 10CC, and The Boomtown Rats.

He also authored the only official book on rock legends Queen, published in 2011 to tie in with the band’s fortieth anniversary.

Back in 1997, Harry penned an article for a supplement marking the 225th anniversary of the ‘Derry Journal’.

In it, he recalled his years at the ‘Journal’ with great fondness, revealing that his memories of “Shipquay Street and Buncrana Road [former ‘Journal’ HQs] will never fade, so indelibly are the experiences stamped.”

Harry started his ‘Journal’ career in the 1960s as an apprentice compositor and, in the early 1970s, took up the chance to become a trainee reporter.

“The Troubles were in full swing,” he wrote in the 1997 article, “and we were thrown in at the deep end... We had to sink or swim –- and we swam for our lives!”

“We had to report on the Troubles in addition to our responsibilities of being a local community-driven newspaper.”

Harry also recalled reporting on the ill-fated anti-internment march which was to become known as Bloody Sunday.

“What a nightmare,” he recalled. “It was hard to get that edition of the paper out. Emotion and shock had set in and we were all deeply saddened to have lost Willie McKinney [‘Journal’ colleague shot dead on Bloody Sunday] – one of the loveliest, gentlest men I’d ever met.

“But the seeds of that day had been planted a week before when Cecil McGill, our intrepid photographer, and myself, covered an anti-internment march to Magilligan Prison. With all roads to the camp blocked, we ended up on the beach and marched towards the prison.

“The Paras were there, too, and it was obvious that these were men on a very bad mission, definitely up to, and up for, something. We found out what a week later.”

Harry’s own “sacrosanct” territory at the ‘Journal’ was the Pop Page – a regular feature which, he said, “led me into a new galaxy.”

“I once asked for an interview with Horslips and found myself with the boys in their rehearsal cottage in Dunfanaghy, listening to material that would appear on ‘The Tain’. We got on great and, next, I found myself on tour with them. This, I thought, is great.”

Shortly afterwards, a vacancy for a writer with ‘Melody Maker’ came up and, encouraged by Horslips, Harry went for it – and got it.

“Had it not been for my training on the ‘Journal’, he wrote, “I wouldn’t have got through the front door... I can say with a degree of honesty that, while you can take the man out of the ‘Derry Journal’, you most certainly cannot take the ‘Derry Journal’ out of the man.”

Harry Doherty is survived by his family in Derry: his father, Harry, brothers, Rev. Michael and Bernard, and sisters, Marian (Carlin), Ann (Bradley), Margaret (Hannaway) and Susan (McIlveen).