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Sir Don McCullin: ‘No one is more deserving of a knighthood’, says Finsbury Park childhood friend

PUBLISHED: 16:55 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 12:46 04 January 2017

Sir Don McCullin and Terry Silvester pictured at a reunion event at Finsbury Park Conservative Club in 2003. Picture: Terry Silvester

Sir Don McCullin and Terry Silvester pictured at a reunion event at Finsbury Park Conservative Club in 2003. Picture: Terry Silvester

Archant

“No one deserves a knighthood more than Sir Don McCullin.” That’s the view of Terry Silvester, a childhood friend of the legendary photographer, after he was named in the New Year Honours list on Saturday.

One of Sir Don McCullin's earliest photos, taken in Ma's Cafe in Blackstock Road in 1958. His childhood friend, Terry Sylvester, is pictured centre with a cigarette. Picture: Sir Don McCullin/Terry SilvesterOne of Sir Don McCullin's earliest photos, taken in Ma's Cafe in Blackstock Road in 1958. His childhood friend, Terry Sylvester, is pictured centre with a cigarette. Picture: Sir Don McCullin/Terry Silvester

Sir Don grew up in 40, Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, and knocked about with Terry, who lived a few doors down in number 26.

Now 81, he is most famous for his powerful war photography, covering conflicts in countries such as Nigeria, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iran.

But it was in his native Finsbury Park where his talents were first recognised. In 1959, he photographed The Guvnors, a gang linked to the murder of PC Raymond Summers in Seven Sisters Road the previous year.

It was published in The Observer, and Terry told the Gazette this afternoon: “He was always taking pictures of me and my pals around Finsbury Park, but The Guvnors shot kickstarted his whole career.”

Terry, in his 70s, now lives in Holland-on-Sea, Essex, but is still in touch with Sir Don.

“He’s a driven person. He’s always been different because it’s never been solely about his photos, but telling stories about the horrible things that were going on in the world.

He added: “There’s no one more deserving of this knighthood. He’s been in horrendously dangerous situations and sometimes I don’t know how he sleeps.

“This isn’t a David Cameron crony, a ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ situation. He has won this knighthood off his own back.”

Responding to his knighthood on Saturday, Sir Don, now of Somerset, looked back at his “poor and impoverished” upbringing. He added: “I’ve managed to get away from that and I’ve managed to educate myself by travelling with great journalists.

Photographer Don McCullin stands in front of one of his war photos at an exhibition in 2010. Picture: Dave Thompson/PAPhotographer Don McCullin stands in front of one of his war photos at an exhibition in 2010. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA

“So in a way, I’ve been duly rewarded before I even got this knighthood.”

Sir Don has vowed to continue with his work until he “can’t press that button any more”.

But he ruled out returning to war zones, saying: “When I was young, I could really shift across those battlefields. Now can only walk across them, which is slightly more dangerous.”

‘These people have made a difference’

Four people associated with Islington Council were given MBEs in Saturday’s New Year Honours list.

Candy Burgess, widely known as Candy Holder, is Islington’s head of pupil services. She was honoured for services to special educational needs after 37 years of helping parents.

Anjana and Krushnah Appiah have been fostering with the council since 2003, and have fostered 12 children with a range of needs. They were recognised for services to children.

And Cathy Blair was honoured for services to children’s social work, having retired last year. Seven of her 35 years of public service were with Islington, where she worked in safeguarding.

Council leader Richard Watts said: “Every day foster carers and council staff make a positive difference to the lives of a huge number of people in our community. They do this without thought of recognition or fanfare. We’re very proud of their hard work.”

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