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Tom Brett was the real deal

by Jimmy Rhatigan

Photographer Tom Brett was top class in his chosen profession.

For a lifetime he was a highly respected maestro of the Fourth Estate and a passionate member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

It was my privilege to work with Tom on the staff of the Kilkenny People Newspaper. He was dedicated, conscientious, hard-working and was a truly loyal and supportive colleague.

Along with our friend and colleague Seán Hurley, a brilliant editor, he was an ideal mentor, always available for advice, generous with his time.

Tom knew the profession inside out and with a heart and a half, he shared his wealth of knowledge.

 As young journalists we could always rely on the trade union support of senior men Tom and Seán who encouraged NUJ principles and ideals.

Tom was a proud man when his eldest son Thomas followed his footsteps into professional photography. 

Tom was genuine, the real deal and when necessary he defended his corner gallantly. 

He spoke from the heart and always worked towards getting an assurance that his professional work was not used, without his permission, by a source other that the local newspaper to which he was so loyal.

He provided photographic coverage of news and sport. He particularly enjoyed taking action shots at hurling clashes and, understandably, as an aficionado he was at home when covering golf. He was a dedicated PRO at Kilkenny Golf Club for some years. He also had a great sense of recognizing potential news stories.

In lay man’s language I would say that Tom was a dab hand at golf and loved his outings with fellow members of the press.

He was a son of Fatima Place in our city and, interestingly, he was to be one of several locals whose families lived in Fatima and who, over the years worked for the ‘People.

The latter included journalist Kerry McCarthy who went on to work for Independent Newspapers and journalist John Knox who progressed to sports editor.

I was to spend 38 years on the staff of a paper that was then owned by the Keane family from Bishop’s Hill, excellent employers.

Other Fatima stalwarts on the staff were Pat Griffin and John McKee both of whom were talented members of the printing department in High Street and later in Purcellsinch.

Tom never minced his words. One quickly learned how he felt about a particular situation. He didn’t court popularity and perhaps that was the key to the respect that the greater Kilkenny community had for Tom and his photography.

Perhaps the best tribute of all was paid to him when his collection of local photography, The Brett Collection, was acquired by Kilkenny County Council and will forever and a day be remembered as a wonderful legacy to his beloved Kilkenny from Tom, his family and his camera.

Tom is survived by his wife Grace, daughter Gráinne; sons Thomas and Alan; brothers Billy, Paddy, Hugh and David; grandchildren Conor, Cathal, Seán, Caoimhe, Isaac and Maria; daughter-in-law Carmel; son-in-law Ken and Kate; nephews and nieces, extended family especially Claire.

He was predeceased by his brother Seán and sister Mary. Tom was aged 84 years.

Jimmy Rhatigan

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