'Known to princes and presidents, but to us just an amazing family man'

THE wife of Lisburn photographer John Harrison who died suddenly at his home in the early hours of Friday morning has spoken of the man who was known to presidents and prime ministers, but to her and her children was just 'an amazing family man'.

John (50), who ran one of Northern Ireland's most successful photographic agencies, passed away at his home at the North Circular Road of a suspected heart attack.

His wife Mandy spoke lovingly about the man she was so happily married to.

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They had celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in September and spent a weekend with friends in Berlin as a celebration.

They have three children Peter (21) Thomas (19) and Catherine (13).

"I know that he mixed in those sort of circles with politicians, but he never bragged about what he did and when he was at home he was very much a devoted family man," said Mandy.

"All his spare time was with us. He did everything to make us happy.

"We shared an amazing family life. He did everything for me and the children. There is nothing I would regret or change. He was so full of energy and always on the go. He was as fit and healthy man that you would meet."

The family spent time at their holiday home in Portballintrae and John took them to sporting events in Barcelona and Milan to see the Grand Prix and to various rugby events.

John, originally from Ballymena, owned his first camera at the age of four. When he boarded at Coleraine Inst he took pictures of rugby matches and sold them on to team members.

When he left school he joined the Ballymena Guardian as a junior and then moved to Pacemaker, a photographic agency, before starting up his own business 16 years ago at Great Northern Street.

He was on hand to cover all the big events in Northern Ireland and beyond over the past two decades and was awarded the MBE two years ago for services to photography.

Last week John travelled to America to cover an official event in Washington. Son Peter, who had started a work placement in New York at the British Consulate six weeks before, met his father beforehand. They went to a New York Giants match and were able to spend weekend in each other's company before John flew onto Washington on Monday.

He returned home on Thursday, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Mandy picked him up from the Airport. He had a good flight and was in good form. They had tea together at home before he went into the office to make final arrangements for the Queen's visit in Lisburn the following day.

Then he and Mandy went to the CIPR Awards at the Europa Hotel where he presented an award.

"He never let anyone down," said Mandy. "He loved people and loved being with people. If anyone rang the house late at night he would drop everything to help them out and never grumbled. "