Celebration of Photographer, Fitzpatrick, set for Friday

A celebration of a press photographer whose portfolio includes Celtic becoming the first British club to win football's European Cup is to take place on Friday – to allow friends and colleagues to 'raise a glass' to his memory.

Tom Fitzpatrick is described as “an intrepid press photographer during what has been called Scotland’s 'golden age of journalism' when the country’s leading newspapers sold in excess of 700,000 copies a day and competition for exclusive stories and pictures was at its fiercest ever”.

The celebration is being held at the Press Bar, in Albion Street, Glasgow, on Friday, at 1.30pm.

In an obituary by his friend, former local newspaper editor and media adviser to former First Minister, Henry McLeish, Bill Heaney writes: “The definitive decades were the 1960s and 70s when the Scottish Daily Express and the Daily Record, both edited and printed in Glasgow, battled headline to headline and picture to picture for the coveted title of Scotland’s best-selling popular newspaper. And reporters and photographers fought, sometimes literally, for the 'scoops' that would propel their title to the top of the circulation league table.

“The fact that the Express had the edge with its brave, intelligent, probing journalism and memorable photographs was down to people like Tom Fitzpatrick who twice won the title of Press Photographer of the Year and was also Sports Photographer of the Year in the Scottish Press Awards. These determined individuals were prepared to go the extra mile and then some to obtain the gripping material their editors demanded.

“At that time, news gathering was a trade. There were few academics in the newsrooms and darkrooms which were staffed mainly with young men – and a few feisty women – who left school at 15 and were desperate for any kind of job that would bring income into their working class homes. The fact that working on a newspaper – as a reporter or a photographer – was not considered 'a real job' by many people at that time was referred to by Tom Fitzpatrick’s son, Robert, in the eulogy he gave at the [recent] Requiem Mass for his father.”

At the funeral, Robert said: “Dad often told how he was the only one of his brothers that his father couldn’t get an apprenticeship for in the post war years. My uncle Hugh had been apprenticed as a printer and my uncle John as a joiner. The only job my grandfather could get for my dad was as a lift boy in the Daily Express building, where he started work shortly after his 15th birthday in 1949. He moved on to be a copy boy working in the darkroom before becoming a photographer with the Daily Express and Evening Citizen.”

Adds Heaney: “Reporters who worked with Fitzpatrick included big by-line names like Stuart McCartney, David Scott, William Allsop and Andrew McCallum, who later became chief reporter of the Herald. Fellow photographers included Ronnie Burgess, Ray Beltrami, Jack Middleton, Harry Turner and, occasionally, Fleet Street stars like Reg Lancaster.”

He continued: “Photographing football matches was Fitzpatrick’s greatest love though. Fitzpatrick was a Celtic supporter, and an avid one at that. He was always assigned to cover the Parkhead club’s matches, including all their European games. He was the photographer who took the pictures of the captains shaking hands and exchanging club banners before the games, and who was always entrusted with the opposition’s banner by Celtic captain, Billy McNeill, to take back to manager Jock Stein in the dugout. 

“Fitzpatrick was hugely proud to have been behind the goals in Lisbon, taking photographs, when Celtic won the European Cup in 1967. In the archive footage of Stevie Chalmers’s winning goal for Celtic, he can be seen jumping for joy behind the goal. Tommy Gemmell, who scored Celtic’s first goal, had promised his jersey to Fitzpatrick, but one of the disappointed Inter Milan players had coaxed it from the full-back before the photographer reached him.”

He went on: “He left the Express to do his national service with the RAF in Germany between 1952 and 1954, but returned to work with the paper as a photographer until the Beaverbrook operation shut down in 1974 and 1800 journalists, photographers, engineers and print workers were made redundant.

“Following this calamity Fitzpatrick invested a great deal of time, effort and money in the ill-fated Scottish Daily News workers’ co-operative, which was set up in the Albion Street printing plan. When that project eventually failed, he freelanced before securing a job in the Evening Times on the picture desk where he worked with distinction until his retirement.”

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