Former ‘Nationalist’ and RTE camerman Justin Nelson brings out new book

A new book to look out for in the new year will be Justin Nelson’s autobiography “Why Me? - A Pictorial Memoir”.

A new book to look out for in the new year will be Justin Nelson’s autobiography “Why Me? - A Pictorial Memoir”.

Justin, a former Executive Producer with RTE and one-time staff photographer with ‘The Nationalist’ back in the 1950s and early 1960s, will recall his long and successful career behind the camera, both still and moving, from Market Street to Montrose.

The book will cover his early career as staff photographer with this newspaper followed by his part in the launch of Irish television and his promotion from cameraman to the highest grade of Executive Producer at RTE.

Seeing that former colleagues at the national broadcaster, such as Jimmy Magee and Bill O’Herlihy had recently launched their biographies, Justin felt it was right time that he should “give it a go also.”

Obviously the book is packed full of brilliant images from cover to cover, with a special section on “Happy Days in the Town I Love So Well” - Clonmel, of course. Plenty to engage the reader in a trip down memory lane, both great stories but even better pictures.

Justin tells the story of his arrival by train from his County Sligo home to Clonmel in 1955 and starting his first job as press photographer with ‘The Nationalist,’ then in competition in a time of deep recession with a new newspaper called ‘The Munster Tribune.’

He recalls his very casual job interview with then editor William C. Darmody and also Fr. Cyril O’Mahony of The Friary and Anthony Murphy, company director (all three sadly no longer with us).

Among many Clonmel anecdotes Justin recounts his first full-board digs with a Mrs. O’Brien on Powerstown Road, for the princely sum £3 per week - a lot when one considers pay was only £5 per week at the time. Who would believe it now?

Former colleagues of Justin while with ‘The Nationalist’, the late Brendan Long (editor), Aidan Kilkelly and Redmond Burke also come in for special mention.

Justin’s job in Market Street (where ‘The Nationalist’ offices existed up until 1974) was two-fold, press photographer first and foremost, but also a responsibility to operate the Klischograph, a new photo-engraving machine at the cutting edge of technology. For those of us old enough to have worked in the halcyon days of hot-metal in the newspaper industry, “Why Me?” is a nostalgic trip down memory lane in terms of personalities and printing processes.

Photographers today would obviously also enjoy this publication and gain an insight into what the snappers of yesteryear could achive with basic cameras, all manual settings and of course darkroom development. This book is literally an eye-opener in terms of what Justin could produce in those days half a century ago.

The section of the book covering his “Market Street Memories” also contains great images of South Tipperary then and now with something in there for everyone with Canon Hayes of Muintir na Tire and Bansha featuring as well as a Men’s Mission in Ss. Peter & Paul’s Church, Clonmel. Hard to credit some of these pictures were taken ONLY 50 years ago.

Justin departed Clonmel in 1961 at the time of the launch of RTE and carved out a remarkable and successful career in Donnybrook where he was involved in the TV coverage of 18 successive All-Ireland finals and the major racing, rugby and soccer internationals.

He instigated The Superstars, the All-Ireland Triathlon, the Nissan Cycling Classic and took charge of many RTE top ranking TV shows.

Justin also over the years worked on the first ‘Late Late Show,’ the first hurling and football All-Ireland finals and the state visit in 1962 of American President, John F. Kennedy.

The book contains testimonials of Justin’s significance to RTE from the likes of Jimmy Magee, Bill O’Herlihy, BB Baskin, Fred Cogley, Aonghus McAnally and Kathleen Watkins.

Justin Nelson has also published two other books - “Michael Collins - The Final Days” and “Michael Collins - A Fitting Farewell.”

“Why Me?” will be on sale early in 2013.