Busy Sky Television reporter David Blevins’ new role couldn’t be more removed from his profession as he travels the length and breadth of Ireland covering major issues, from the North Coast to Cork.
David, with a strong background in the Boys’ Brigade Movement, has accepted the voluntary post of its Northern Ireland President, succeeding the late Professor Norman Nevin, prominent Belfast geneticist and devoted Christian.
Said David, “The post was offered to me by Jonathan Gracey, former captain of 4th Portadown BB Company (Edenderry Presbyterian) and now Director of the Boys Brigade in Northern Ireland. Professor Nevin is a difficult act to follow.”
Recent assignments include the same sex marriage referendum; the visit of Prince Charles to Mullaghmore where his great mentor and Uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered in August 1979; and the balcony collapse in Berkerly California in June when six Irish students died.
David’s new role is to represent the BB on important public and civic occasion – up to Royal visit level - as well as chairing the meetings of the NI Boys Brigade Executive and helping to guide its future.
“There are 16,000 members and 4,000 officers in Northern Ireland, and I’ll observe and listen for a year or so before saying too much. It seems they wanted a well-known public face, so here I am for better or worse.”
Brought up in Portadown, he was immersed in BB work, serving 30 years – from joining the Anchor Boys to becoming Captain of 6th Portadown (Epworth) and then President of the Portadown Battalion. “But I’ve been out of BB work for 10 years and felt I’d be a bit rusty.”
David’s reporting life started with two years freelancing in the Portadown Times – “an excellent grounding with staff who knew what they were about, under editor David Armstrong.” After that, he moved to Downtown Radio, where he reported on atrocities like the Shankill bombing.
He joined Sky in 1996, and was “an annual fixture” at the height of the Drumcree crisis, and he also covered the Omagh atrocity in 1998. But his assignments became worldwide (America, Africa, Europe and Asia).
Then, in 2007 he decided on a different role - in Methodism as a lay minister in Richhill. He underwent a three-year course in Applied Theology at a Dublin College, affiliated to the University of Wales (Aberystwyth), and emerged with first-class honours.
Sky wanted him back, so he job shared – devoting two days a week to the lay ministry and three to the TV company.
“But 18 months ago, there were simultaneous changes in the Church and in Sky, who asked me to return full-time,” said David. “The BB and Sky roles are different and could conflict time-wise, but Jonathan tells me they’ll work around it.”
Jonathan said, “David, with his modest outlook on life - a high profile man with a great grounding in the BB. He’s the right man, in the right place and at the right time.”