Profile: Bobbie Hanvey - Capturing Final Days of the RUC; A Love of Photography Has Led to Great Opportunities for the Ramblin' Man Bobbie Hanvey, Whose Latest Exhibition Focuses on the Last Days of the RUC, Has, over the Years, Become One of Northern Ireland's Best-Known Photographers. IAN STARRETT Talked to the Man Behind the Lens

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), April 4, 2002 | Go to article overview

Profile: Bobbie Hanvey - Capturing Final Days of the RUC; A Love of Photography Has Led to Great Opportunities for the Ramblin' Man Bobbie Hanvey, Whose Latest Exhibition Focuses on the Last Days of the RUC, Has, over the Years, Become One of Northern Ireland's Best-Known Photographers. IAN STARRETT Talked to the Man Behind the Lens


THERE was always something of the Ramblin' Man in Bobbie Hanvey. Even as a little lad at school, in the west of the Province, he was always hankering to get away from his desk and into the great outdoors.

Born in Brookeborough in 1945, the son of a Co Down father and a Fermanagh mother, he went to school firstly in his home village and then to Enniskillen "Tech".

He confessed: "I hated school. I just didn't like it. I 'schemed' all the time. When I went into the Tech it was like the grading system at Ellis Island.

"They put a pile of us on one side of the room and a pile of us on the other. I wanted to do typing but I ended up in the group that ended up doing carpentry, metalwork, woodwork, chemistry, physics, maths and English and all that.

"I wanted to do typing and English because I was never any good at maths. So I 'schemed' through those school days and I stayed in the sick room a lot of the times when I wasn't really sick."

On leaving school, he worked in several factories but later went into nursing, working at the Downshire Hospital in Downpatrick from 1966.

Before going to the Downshire he and Dungannon man, Shaun Diamond, worked as a folk singing duo in England, touring clubs from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to London.

Even at the Downshire, Bobbie was able to pursue his passion for photography. "I used to photograph patients out working in the gardens and that sort of stuff."

The love of photography had been handed down from his father, who was a keen cameraman.

Bobbie said: "He used to work as a foreman for McGregor's, of the Sydenham Road, Belfast, who used to cut down all the trees in all the big estates in Northern Ireland, like Colebrook and Ashbrook and Prehen up in Derry.

"When I was small, I used to go out and stay with him. He used to live in a caravan out on the site. If he was in places like Limavady, where he would be away maybe for the whole week, I would just spend my holidays up there in the caravan with him.

"I used to take photographs of the men cutting the trees down and pulling them out. He used to let me take photographs and that's basically where I got my first chance of handling a camera.

"I've still got some of those photographs. I was only small then. That was in the 1950s. I was about 10 or 11."

It was early in the 1970s that he worked as a general photographer. He entered Press photography competitions for just three years in the 1980s but in those years he won five awards - Provincial Press Photographer of the Year three times and twice for Best People Picture.

He has had exhibitions of his work at Down County Museum and Bobbie Hanvey's pictures have been widely published on book and record covers.

In 1999, a collection of his photographs of people - Merely Players: Portraits from Northern Ireland - was published.

His choice of favourite subject to photograph will surprise many in the media who have tried to approach him for interviews and have been turned down. Bobbie, on the other hand, cannot speak highly enough of Ulster playwright Brian Friel.

"Brian Friel is my favourite subject. He doesn't really like having his photograph taken. He doesn't like being interviewed either. I like Brian. I photograph Brian every year. I photographed him in 1994 and I have been taking his portrait every year since then.

"I like him because there's no nonsense out of him. He's a very human man and a very intelligent man."

He was also impressed with DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley as a subject: "He has a tremendous sense of humour," said Bobbie. …

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Profile: Bobbie Hanvey - Capturing Final Days of the RUC; A Love of Photography Has Led to Great Opportunities for the Ramblin' Man Bobbie Hanvey, Whose Latest Exhibition Focuses on the Last Days of the RUC, Has, over the Years, Become One of Northern Ireland's Best-Known Photographers. IAN STARRETT Talked to the Man Behind the Lens
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