Liam McCandless: a popular man who helped guide Derry Journal ship for many years

Liam McCandless, former Derry Journal advertising manager and director, passed away recently. Here, Arthur Duffy, the paper’s former editor, pays tribute to him.

Friday, 15th January 2021, 11:39 am
1980s... Liam McCandless (on left) with Derry Journal colleague Cecil McGill during a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the spire of St Eugene’s Cathedral.
1980s... Liam McCandless (on left) with Derry Journal colleague Cecil McGill during a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the spire of St Eugene’s Cathedral.

Any history of the ‘Derry Journal’ would be incomplete without mention of Liam McCandless, one of the newspaper’s hugely popular characters who has passed away.

Liam, who died on Sunday, January 3, aged 86, was a man of charisma and personality.

His contribution to the ‘Journal’ was significant and this was duly rewarded when he was elevated to the company’s Board of Directors during the 1970s.

1960s... Liam (in back row) was a member of the Derry Journal’s football team which competed in junior competitions locally. Also included in picture are Willie McKinney, Noel McBride, Larry Doherty, Frank Curran, John McManus, Tom Cassidy, Charlie McBride, Danny Doherty, Joe Martin, Tony McLaughlin, and Willie O’Connell.

A native of the Top of the Hill, in the city’s Waterside, Liam’s career at the Shipquay Street-based ‘Journal’ started in January, 1951, when he took on a seven years apprenticeship in the company’s commercial printing section, known internally as the ‘jobbing department’.

Having honed his skills there, Liam, like so many others before him, graduated to work on the production of the newspaper as a hot metal linotype operator.

However, with the newspaper industry experiencing a seismic shift in terms of new technology during the 1970s, Liam played an integral role in assisting the ‘Journal’ to move forward when it purchased modern new equipment.

He travelled to England to take up a specialist course that led to the switch to photographic typesetting which replaced the antiquated and cumbersome hot metal techniques.

It was a move that was to place the ‘Journal’ at the forefront of modern printing processes in Ireland.

The continued growth of the newspaper and, indeed, its commercial department, also necessitated a move to a bigger plant and new premises were constructed at Buncrana Road in the early 1970s.

Liam subsequently switched roles at the Journal, joining the paper’s advertising department in a move aimed at boosting steady commercial growth.

His infectious personality struck a chord within the local business community and it was not long before Liam was not only promoted to advertising manager but, eventually, elevated to the Journal’s Board of Directors.

Liam was also a very competent illustrator and artist - he was particularly deft at sketching cartoons and portraits - and his drawings and paintings were proudly displayed in the former Ken McGilloway art gallery in Derry.

One of Liam’s stand-out pieces of art depicts a group of Journal staff members visiting the construction site of the soon-to-open new premises at Buncrana Road in 1970.

The group initially posed for a photograph which was then sketched to scale by Liam.

Fifty years on, the drawing, now framed, has pride of place in the Journal’s boardroom at Duncreggan Road.

That same artistic talent has continued through the McCandless family bloodline with son John and grandson Rory Quigley following successful careers in art and illustration.

Liam McCandless was laid to rest in the City Cemetery following Requiem Mass at St. Patrick’s Church, Pennyburn, where many friends, including former ‘Journal’ colleagues, paid their respects.

To his devoted wife, Maureen, his sons, John and Desmond, his daughters, Karen, Claire, Nuala and Colette, his grandchildren and entire family circle, the sympathy of the community is extended.

May he rest in peace.