The Hamilton Spectator
Paul Hourigan was ‘an old-school photojournalist’ who realized his dream
Regarded for getting the spectacular shots at hard news events such as fires, car crashes
Spectator news photographer Paul Hourigan loved his job so much he had a running joke with his wife, Florence, about what he would do if he heard a fire on the police scanner while they were out.
“I always said to him, ‘You’d leave me behind before you’d leave the camera behind,’” she recalls with a laugh.
He never did abandon her. But he took her home many times when a call on the scanner came in while they were out for lunch.
Hourigan — who died Dec. 26 at 77 — also loved the job so much his wife said he told a former editor last year he would have done it for free.
Hourigan took photos of everything, from food to Ticat games, but is probably best known for his news shots from fires and such. He photographed the Niagara QEW crash that killed Tim Horton in 1974, the Wentworth Arms Hotel fire that killed seven in 1976, and the murder of mobster Johnny Papalia at his downtown business in 1997. His photo of the 1988 Wentworth Street School fire was just an orange ball. He grabbed a shot at the 1993 fire at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum of the Lancaster bomber being pulled to safety from a burning hangar. Six vintage planes were lost.
Hourigan was the first Spec photographer to the Hagersville tire fire in 1990. His photo of a water bomber attacking the fire hung on the wall outside The Spec newsroom for years.
Spec photographer Barry Gray called Hourigan “an old-school photojournalist” whose “first love, and best skill, was photographing news.” Hourigan’s wife said he sometimes beat firefighters to a fire and they joked about checking him for matches.
Colleague John Rennison recalled the time Hourigan rushed to a jewelry store robbery call and got a shot of police running across a street with their guns drawn.
“Paul seemed to know everyone,” said Rennison. “Police, fire, ambulance, he knew everyone. He had contacts many of us envied. Paul was always on the scene. If you woke up to news of a big fire in the city overnight, you could be guaranteed Paul had been there and had the photos.”
Being a disciple of the scanner was something ingrained in him. His father, Gerald, a service manager for Union Gas, was one of the founders of Box 43, the truck that attends large fires to provide coffee and sandwiches to firefighters. He had a scanner going at the home while Hourigan was growing up.
Hourigan got a full-time job at The Spectator in 1973 after working freelance part time since 1969. He retired in 2007.
Hourigan was born July 4, 1945. His mother, Marguerite, was a housewife. Hourigan graduated from Hill Park Secondary School. He first worked as an ambulance attendant for Clark Ambulance and the Brown Brothers. He got hired to work at Hotel Dieu Hospital in St. Catharines, where he spent five years before going to The Spec.
Florence, who worked for the city’s social services department, said her husband always wanted to work for The Spectator. He worked for a camera store when they met in high school.
“I have a picture of him as a scrawny kid and he worked for Bochsler (Studios),” she said. “He always had a camera in his hand as long as I knew him. He wanted to be a Spectator photographer. That was his dream.”
After he retired, Hourigan took up cycling. The couple also travelled. Hourigan once owned a 1964 Ford T-Bird that took the couple to car shows all over Ontario. They traded it in for a Honda Goldwing motorcycle that took them to many rallies.
Hourigan is survived by his wife, Florence, daughters, Mary-Catherine and Kelly, four grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren. He was predeceased by his brother and sister. A celebration of life is planned for May 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Immanuel Christian Reformed Church (61 Mohawk Rd. W.).