I was saddened to read of the death of Eamonn McCabe (Report, 3 October). I was lucky enough to meet him at a time when he was seen as the top sports photographer in the UK. During the latter half of the 1980s, I ran a visual arts touring exhibition service on Merseyside that took contemporary artworks into alternative venues – schools, libraries, shops, offices etc.
At the opening of a newly refurbished section of the Albert Dock complex, some of Eamonn’s most iconic sports images were on display. A few of us from Merseyside Arts were invited along and Eamonn was there. As a keen amateur photographer, I’d always loved his pictures, so I plucked up my courage to tell him and also to ask if he’d consider letting us tour his work.
He gave me his phone number and asked me to call him to make the arrangements for a tour. I was delighted that someone that famous could be so approachable and generous. He lent us several large prints mounted on hardboard, plus a set of laminated panels. Unsurprisingly, this show proved immensely popular, attracting bookings all over Merseyside.
So imagine how I felt after a call from one venue, a sports centre on the Wirral, to say that one of the laminated panels – a picture of Marvin Hagler – had been stolen.
I dreaded phoning Eamonn to tell him. But when I did, he said, “I’m flattered that someone liked my work enough to want to steal it”, laughed, and told me not to worry. He was a great photographer and truly a kind, understanding and generous man.
• I had the privilege of working in the Guardian’s advertising sales force in the late 80s, when Eamonn McCabe had just been appointed as picture editor. In those days, everyone on the sales floor regarded the editorial team as nothing short of gods.
Eamonn was thoughtful and unassuming. He enjoyed taking traditionally understood visual tropes and putting them into a new context. I remember him insisting that readers were far more visually literate than most editors gave them credit for.
One year, he derived singular enjoyment from a beautifully crafted photograph of the chancellor of the time, shot from an angle that made the famous red dispatch box look tiny. I have forgotten who the chancellor was, but I’ll never forget Eamonn’s wise and witty take on the important role of photographs in all narratives. I am very sorry indeed that you have lost such a cherished colleague.
Virginia Water, Surrey
• I have followed Eamonn McCabe’s career with interest and admiration over the past 40 years, having briefly encountered him when he asked for directions from Glasgow’s Mount Florida train station to the press entrance at Hampden Park, where he was covering a Scotland game in 1979.
In the course of a five-minute chat, he generously provided a couple of technical tips to this very amateur photography enthusiast, while also recounting, in his self-deprecating manner, how he hoped that night to avoid repeating his failure to capture Kenny Dalglish’s spectacular winning goal against Wales the previous year.
He had been caught out changing film at the critical moment, resulting in “the mother and father of reprimands” on his return to the office. RIP a hugely talented, consummate professional, but also a genuinely nice guy.
Linlithgow, West Lothian
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