Respected journalist who made mark in male-dominated career

Joy Rolston
Joy Rolston

Tributes have been paid to Joy Rolston, a long-serving, Portadown-born journalist who died on Saturday after an illness, aged 80.

Joy (nee Somerville) worked for several newspapers in Portadown and Armagh, before embarking on a successful career as a freelance journalist from her home in Armagh city.

For 30 years, at a time when female journalists were scarce, she covered news, security and political stories for the national press and media.

She started as a junior teenage reporter with the old Portadown Times in 1954 and, when Morton Newspapers took over the title, Joy remained there for more than a decade. She spent several years with the Armagh Guardian and also had a short spell with the Ulster Gazette.

Retired Portadown Times journalist Brian Courtney started his career as a teenage cub reporter at the same time as Joy in their home town.

“Joy and I were contemporaries; our careers in Portadown ran parallel until she moved to Armagh. As a journalist, she was at the top of her craft, meticulous and accurate with a terrific shorthand proficiency.

“She had few peers in the world of provincial newspapers and, in a male-dominated profession at the time, she was first division,” said Brian.

Ulster Unionist MEP and former Armagh Mayor Jim Nicholson said Joy was an all-encompassing journalist who had her finger on the pulse of every facet of news coming out of Armagh and district.

“Joy’s political coverage was fair and balanced and, as a court reporter, she excelled. She was feisty at times, but when she filed a story you knew it was accurate and detailed,” said Mr Nicholson.

Former News Letter editor Rankin Armstrong said Joy wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and didn’t give special treatment to anyone.

Tandragee man and senior News Letter journalist Billy Kennedy described Joy as a top-drawer journalist who was also a good friend.

He said, “She was a professional on every story she embarked on and her daily coverage for us in Armagh during the Troubles was invaluable.

“She never missed a call from us, at her line on ‘Armagh 2396’.

“She was also a good friend and I deeply mourn her passing.”

Joy was predeceased by her husband John a number of years ago. Her funeral service will take place at Cheevers funeral parlour, Armagh, today (Monday) at 2pm.