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Des Magee (Read 170 times)
George Eykyn
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Des Magee
Jul 29th, 2022, 7:21pm
 
Des Magee, who died on 16th June 2022 aged 79, was a legendary producer in the early days of BBC Radio Ulster in Belfast. This tribute is by his friend and colleague, David Lynas:


Desmond Joseph Magee (known as Des or Desy), began his career in journalism as a reporter with the Belfast News Letter and later in the Belfast Telegraph. He joined the BBC at Broadcasting House in the city in the early 1970/s.

He quickly earned himself a reputation as a diligent and determined producer.  His career blossomed as he took charge of the morning output at the BBC in Belfast in the shape of the fledgling Good Morning Ulster current affairs programme. It was presented in those days by Sean Rafferty – of Radio 4 fame – and George Hamilton, who later forged a career with the Irish State Broadcaster, RTE.

Under Des’s guidance Good Morning Ulster became a programme which set the news agenda for the day for Northern Ireland as the conflict which became known as “The Troubles” grew in intensity.

He was a constant presence in the News and Current Affairs area and was a reassuring colleague to approach for advice.  The many visiting reporters from London beat a path to his door to check their accuracy before filing.

The many 24-hour shifts took their toll on Des’s health…. he left the BBC in the mid 1990s and went on to work successfully in PR for BP, Easyjet and the Chest Heart & Stroke Association in Belfast.

Des was a sports fan. He was a fine golfer who played for many years off a single figure handicap at Clandeboye Golf Club in County Down. His son Peter and grandson Jake are now following in his footsteps at the club.

Des became very ill last year and was eventually diagnosed with encephalitis.

I last spoke to Des a few weeks before his death and we reminded each other about the many good times we shared…. indeed there were many.

Des was the most talented and gentle of human beings. He had a contacts book from which he could fill a programme twice over with politicians, business leaders, sports stars and indeed comedians.  He once had ten minutes to fill at the end of a morning show so he rang Frank Carson in Blackpool. Frank crashed the pips.
 
Des was a one-off in the high-pressure world he inhabited in the BBC.

He avoided confrontation. He would argue his case, make his point and move on. In almost 40 years of friendship both in the corporation and outside, I never heard him raise his voice in anger. Even with a few “family sizes” in him in the BBC Club, he was decent, kind and funny.

Many of his former colleagues – most of them now long retired -- turned out for his funeral on June 24th in Bangor. There were messages from former audio staff and camera operators who worked with him; former News Editors like John Conway; the former Controller of BBC N Ireland, Robin Walsh; and correspondents such as Chris West, who now lives in Spain.

They all used words like peerless, talented, humble. For me, Mike Philpott summed up Des: “I’m in tears reading the recollections. It’s no exaggeration to say he was the funniest, most talented, loveliest person I ever met. A wonderful, wonderful man".  
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