John McCarthy (journalist)

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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, being held for more than five years.


He attended Lochinver House School, then Haileybury 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.

Following his release, he co-authored, with Jill Morrell, a memoir of his years in captivity, entitled Some Other Rainbow. In 1995 he sailed around the coast of Britain with Sandi Toksvig, making a BBC documentary TV series and a book of the experience. McCarthy attended university with Toksvig's brother, Nick. John McCarthy 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.[1][2]

Honours and affiliations[edit]

He is 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 is named after him.[3]

He was appointed a CBE in 1992.

Media references[edit]

  • 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 the two men'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 John 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' is currently scheduled for CD release in 2011.[citation needed]
  • The Stiff Little Fingers song Beirut Moon was inspired by John McCarthy's ordeal. It criticised the government for not acting to free him and was subsequently withdrawn from sale.[4]
  • A major Sky Arts series, Art of Faith, presented by John 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.
  • In the second episode of the Christmas special of the British comedy programme The Office, David Brent (played by Ricky Gervais) explains how he would like to be interviewed by Michael Parkinson. His agent then says that Parkinson only interviews people who have done things. To which Brent replies, referring to journalist John McCarthy: "He had that guy in Lebanon who spent years chained to a radiator, what did he do? Nothing! He was chained to a radiator!"


Books about


  1. ^ "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Thousands help comedian Sandi Toksvig renew vows after introduction of gay marriage". Herald Scotland. 29 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  3. ^ BAM Agency Ltd. "Hull University Union Students – The Home for HUU University Students". Retrieved 18 May 2009. 
  4. ^

External links[edit]