Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

A great friend and adviser: Patsy’s tribute to his ‘sidekick’

Fellow press photographer Patsy Finnegan was one of Mickey’s closest friends.  The pair spent many hours in each other’s company, travelling the district to attend events.  Bereft at the loss of his ‘sidekick’, Patsy has penned a heartfelt tribute to his longtime friend:

This week the world of photography lost an icon, but most of all we lost a friend, colleague and a confidante. Michael O’Rourke went to his eternal rest on Wednesday 27th November, leaving behind a heartbroken family and friends.

Michael O’Rourke was a one-off, he was a unique and inimitable character. One of a federation of a local photographers who just travelled the country, covering a multitude of different events from dinner dances, birthdays, anniversaries.  He was a familiar figure at Holy Communion and Confirmations, and amongst his many friends of the church were Cardinals Conway, O’Fiaich, Daly and Sean Brady who were always glad to see him.

Mick could have been seen at the many Easter commemoratives events, GAA football, Ulster Championships, and especially the 2002 All-Ireland Final Armagh v Kerry when his beloved county lifted the Sam Maguire.

Armagh county finals, at underage and senior football, Micheal O’Rourke were always to the forefront. He was in Croke Park when Down won their All-Ireland titles in 1960 and 1961, and again in 91 & 94.  It didn’t matter that he was a passionate Armagh supporter, Mick O’Rourke was a fervent GAA supporter and when Down lifted those titles he was as happy as any of the Mournemen’s fans themselves.

An outstanding Dromintee footballer himself, Michael O’Rourke just loved playing for his club.  Strong, quick, solid as a rock, he could take scores and loved scoring goals. He was everything to his beloved Dromintee, he was involved in the formation of the present club structure – footballer, Secretary, Treasurer, Press Officer, youth coach, underage manager, he had his hand in everything concerning the oldest club in Ireland 

His contribution was recognized when he was presented with a Service of the Year Award at the Armagh County Board dinner dance a few years ago.

Michael O’Rourke started his career as a photographer with the Sentinel in Newry, where he covered both news stories and photography, claiming many scoops during the early years of the Troubles, before going to work for the Slieve Gullion View in Crossmaglen, after spells with the Newry Reporter, Armagh Observer and Irish News. When the fortnightly Slieve Gullion View changed to the Crossmaglen Examiner, he was there.

Michael O’Rourke was a significant figure in the fabric of South Armagh and to a great degree the whole of the North. No photo job or picture was too big for him, no distance too far to travel.  His word was his bond, if he said that he would be there, he was undoubtedly there. But he had one principle, and that was what he expected them to follow. Whatever time he was given for the photo, he expected them to adhere to it, and not keep him waiting around.

I got to know Michael O’Rourke in the early 80’s.  It wasn’t a match in heaven, mind you, we just passed a secondary hello or goodbye, In fact I believe it was at the football match in Dromintee when we first met.

We then came across each other at Holy Communion and Confirmations in the various parishes, and gradually, with him employed by the Slieve Gullion View, and me with the Armagh Observer, we got to know each other quite well and we slowly became the best of friends, so much so that one former Armagh footballer dubbed us ‘Mutt and Jeff’ amongst other titles!

As time went by we car-shared, whether it was to football or council events, one of us did the morning run, the other did the night run, and the craic was ninety.  We had some disagreements into the bargain, but however it did become a match made in heaven. 

Michael was not a man to mince his words, he said it as he saw it, either you liked or you didn’t, he was loyal to his friends, and made friends easily. When my mother-in-law Krystyna and wife Shirley passed away, he was right there for me, as a good friend should be. 

Michael O’Rourke kept the news alive for over six decades, everyone knew him from all walks of life and wanted him at their event, honest, trustworthy and a man of integrity was our Mickey.

How do you sum up the effect that Michael O’Rourke had on the world?  Well liked, well respected by all traditions, admired by all that knew him, regarded by all as the doyen of photographers with mountains of experience.

Michael you have now left us.  While you are in a better place, we are in a sadder one.  You were a great friend, buddy and adviser, and you will be sadly missed.  Goodbye Mick, I have lost a great and dear friend, I will never forget you.