|Tony "TC" Catney|
What to say about my friend Tony 'TC' Catney? I do not want to idolize the man just for the sake of it, because I knew him warts and all. The tradition of not speaking ill of the dead should only lasts for a short time. Tony would not wish to be treated like a deity by people who knew little or nothing about him. After all, he was flesh and blood.
TC had an astute political mind which he developed in Long Kesh. We enjoyed nothing better than several cups of tea and a political debate. An entire morning could pass before we even realised. It was most enjoyable whenever we disagreed on something, which was often enough. He liked to call it "talking sedition". There was plenty of it, believe me.
Tony liked to indulge in a bit of conspiratorial politics. I think it was something he picked up in jail. Others saw this as a negative and criticised him for it, but they could play the game too. By and large, TC was a positive influence on those around him. He could hold his own in any room which won him admirers and enemies. I was one of the former.
My respect for Tony increased a thousand fold during the period of his illness. I, along with another friend, brought him to hospital where he was diagnosed with cancer. I do not recall any of us being shocked by the revelation. Words are hard to come by when a friend has just been told that his body is riddled with a killer disease. What really amazed me was TC's stoicism. He did not flinch.
In the time ahead, I attended many of his visits to Cancer Center in the City Hospital. He went through months of chemotherapy and radiation at the highest dosage. Not once did I ever hear him complain or strike out in frustration. As the saying goes, he took his medicine like a man. He would thank me for going out of my way on his behalf, and I would be humbled by his appreciation.
But Tony's best attribute was his legendary generosity. He would have given the shirt of his back, literally. In that sense, he practiced what he preached. He was a socialist in a very practical way. There is no shortage of stories attesting to his altruism. I know he would not want me to blow his trumpet too loudly in this regard.
Sadly, I was not there when the end came. I was arrested at the end of 2013 and remanded to Maghaberry Prison. Despite being extremely ill, he visited me and others until he lost his mobility. The last memory I have of him was being pushed into the visiting room in a wheelchair. Although his body was ravaged, he smiled through the pain. I did not sleep easy that night.
When news of his death finally arrived, I was both sad and relieved. Relieved because my friend's suffering was at an end: Sad because I would never see him again. Every journey must reach its final destination.