John McCarthy (journalist)

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John Patrick McCarthy

Born (1956-11-27) 27 November 1956 (age 65)
EducationLochinver House School
Haileybury and Imperial Service College
Alma materUniversity of Hull
OccupationJournalist, writer, broadcaster
Known forKidnapped for over five years in the Lebanon hostage crisis
Notable work
Some Other Rainbow (1993)
Anna Ottewill
(m. 1999)
Partner(s)Jill Morrell (former)

John Patrick McCarthy CBE (born 27 November 1956) is a British journalist, writer and broadcaster, and one of the hostages in the Lebanon hostage crisis. McCarthy was the United Kingdom's longest-held hostage in Lebanon, where he was a prisoner for more than five years.


He attended Lochinver House School, then Haileybury and Imperial Service College, Hertfordshire, and read American Studies at the University of Hull.

McCarthy was a journalist working for United Press International Television News at the time of his kidnap by Islamic Jihad terrorists in Lebanon in April 1986, and was held in captivity until his release on 8 August 1991. He shared a cell with the Irish hostage Brian Keenan for several years. While a prisoner, he learned that his girlfriend, Jill Morrell, was actively campaigning for his release, launching a group called "Friends of John McCarthy".[1]

By the time of McCarthy's release, his mother Sheila had died of cancer, unaware of his fate.[2] Following his release, he co-authored, with Morrell, a memoir of his years in captivity, entitled Some Other Rainbow. Their relationship ended four years later, and he married Anna Ottewill, a photographer, on 16 April 1999.[3] They have a daughter.[4]

In 1995 John McCarthy sailed around the coast of Britain with Sandi Toksvig, making a BBC documentary TV series and a book of the experience. McCarthy had attended university with Toksvig's brother, Nick. He co-presented the BBC Radio 4 programme Excess Baggage, also with Sandi Toksvig. On 29 March 2014, McCarthy hosted the ceremony for the "I Do To Equal Marriage" event which celebrated the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales. Toksvig renewed her vows to her civil partner at the event.[5]

Honours and affiliations

McCarthy is a Patron of Freedom from Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture), and has been awarded an honorary D.Litt. from his alma mater, the University of Hull, where a students' union bar (now an ice cream parlour) is named after him.[6]

He was appointed a CBE in 1992.[citation needed]

Media references

  • The set of Series 1 of Drop the Dead Donkey, first aired in 1990, included a copy of a "Wanted" poster with McCarthy's photograph released during the campaign on his behalf. It is displayed on the wall in the news room and is frequently in shot, but not mentioned in the programme.
  • The 1993 HBO film Hostages, starring Colin Firth as McCarthy, was a fictionalised account of the Lebanon hostage crisis.
  • A critically acclaimed film version of his and Keenan's kidnapping and incarceration was made in 2003. Titled Blind Flight, the British film was directed by John Furse starring Ian Hart as Keenan and Linus Roache as McCarthy.
  • In 2006 McCarthy collaborated with the composer Adam Gorb and the librettist Ben Kaye to create Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall, an exploration of the mental torture he underwent during his long incarceration. Commissioned by JAM (John Armitage Memorial), the work premiered in Fleet Street to critical acclaim in 2007 and was described by BBC Radio 3's Sean Rafferty as "Powerful stuff. A protest Cantata, the first of a genre." Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall was scheduled for CD release in 2011.[citation needed]
  • The Stiff Little Fingers song Beirut Moon was inspired by McCarthy's ordeal. It criticised the government for not acting to free him and was subsequently withdrawn from sale.[7]
  • A major Sky Arts series, Art of Faith, presented by McCarthy, was broadcast in 2008. The series, produced by Illuminations, was an exploration of the art and architecture of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. In 2009, production of a follow up series of Art of Faith began, featuring Buddhism, Hinduism and religions of the Tao.


  • John McCarthy; Jill Morrell (1993). Some Other Rainbow. Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-02729-5.
  • Brian Keenan; John McCarthy (1999). Between Extremes. Bantam Press. ISBN 978-0-593-04264-9.
  • John McCarthy (2010). A Ghost Upon Your Path. Transworld Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-0-552-77650-9.
  • John McCarthy (2013). You Can't Hide the Sun: A Journey Through Palestine. Transworld Publishers Limited. ISBN 978-0-552-77447-5.

Books about McCarthy

See also


  1. ^ Sebastian Faulks (17 April 1993). "BOOK REVIEW / Touched by the tears of a clown: 'Some Other Rainbow' – John McCarthy and Jill Morrell". The Independent. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  2. ^ Lisa O'Kelly (10 November 2002). "Letters from my mother". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  3. ^ "BBC News | UK | Former hostage McCarthy weds in private". 19 April 1999. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  4. ^ Graham Norwood (26 June 2012). "John McCarthy: My home is my sanctuary". The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  5. ^ "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  6. ^ BAM Agency Ltd. "Hull University Union Students – The Home for HUU University Students". Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  7. ^

External links