We at the FWA are saddened that our dear friend and colleague Kevin McCarra has passed away at the age of 62. Kevin was a much-loved member, friend and colleague. His good friend Philippe Auclair has written this tribute to the former Guardian football correspondent.
“There are few things which are harder to write than a tribute to a friend who has just died. I knew Kevin was desperately ill, but somehow hoped against hope that he’d pull through one more time. Then the phone rang late on Saturday night, and as soon as I saw who was calling, I knew. We’d lost Kevin.
Jonathan Wilson has written, quite beautifully, about our mutual friend in the Guardian, and I won’t attempt to tread the same path myself. The overwhelming response to Jonathan’s piece told its own story: Kevin held a very special place in people’s hearts.
He owed this unique place – beyond the circle of friends who adored him, beyond the Celtic family which has lost one of its most cherished members – to his prowess as a writer, or, more accurately, to the uniqueness of his writing. For Kevin wrote like an angel, but not just in the sense we usually mean when we say this. He had the economy of style, the lightness of touch and the elegance you’d expect from an admirer of David Lacey’s journalism, as well as a remarkable ability to detect and fan away the faintest whiff of cliché; but what made Kevin’s gift unique is that he never used it to mock, belittle or hurt anyone, whilst still conveying the passion he had for the game and not once reneging on his beliefs and his contempt for those who betrayed what he held to be right for football – and for society.
His readers could feel this. They instinctively knew that his passionate, yet measured voice was the voice of a kind man, and they were right: kindness was the defining trait of his character. Many of the other virtues he demonstrated in his life and in his work sprang from it. When the news of his death was made public on social media on Sunday, people who’d met him on just a few occasions spoke of how he’d always been considerate, attentive to them, polite to a fault (if such a thing is possible), humble and helpful. These were other ways to say this simple thing: he was the kindest of men. He could be as sharp as anyone, and as funny too; but not once did I hear him being cruel.
There was a certain otherwordliness about Kevin, which is the first thing which attracted me to him when we met in the press box for the first time, some twenty years ago, and which went well beyond his legendary incapacity to master anything to do with computers. Kevin stood out in a way only Kevin could. Maybe he still felt a certain bemusement at having become the Guardian’s football correspondent, the position he’d dreamt of long before he moved from Glasgow to London. He did not fit in, yet he did. He remained a fan to the last (attending home games at Partick Thistle until his condition made it impossible for him to bear crowds), but could not found guilty of one-eyedness. He was a celebrant in the church of Celtic FC, but was never blind to the dangers of sectarism.
These are not contradictions. These are the characteristics of a good man. This is how I will remember him. And when I miss him, which will be often, and for a long time, and I’m hit by his absence a bit harder than usual, I’ll play Curtis Mayfield’s version of the Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun, a favourite of his, and will give thanks to have called a friend the lovely man who brought this song and so much else in my life, as he did bring so much else in the life of so many others.”