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Sunday newspaper’s former deputy editor dies aged 63

David CulbertA regional Sunday newspaper’s former deputy editor know for his “depth of experience and sense of calm” has died aged 63.

Tributes have been paid to David Culbert, left, known as ‘Big Dave’, who served as second-in-command at Belfast’s Sunday Life during the 1990s.

He also worked for the Belfast Telegraph and The Irish News, also both based in the city, during a career which last more than four decades.

An obituary in the Bel Tel noted David’s coolness under pressure, general knowledge and sound editorial judgment when working to tight deadlines.

Former colleague Joe Mitchell said: “He was always ‘Big Dave’ to me – big in every sense of the word.

“He was big-hearted in his dealings with his many friends and colleagues, big-brained in having a vigorous, expansive understanding of what it took to do the job right, and he was also big of stature, at six feet plus.

“As a sub-editor, he instilled confidence and trust in those lucky enough to work with him.

“He had a granite quality; solid, but not sharp or flinty, with an open and generous nature and a wonderful sense of humour.”

David, originally from East Belfast, began his career as a reporter with the Portadown Times/News before returning to his hometown.

He then worked as a sub-editor and feature writer with the Irish News in the 1970s and early 1980s before moving to Sunday Life, first as deputy chief sub-editor before becoming deputy editor of the paper.

He also had spells at the now-defunct Sunday News and the BBC, working for the corporation’s digital news service.

David worked on Sunday Life when the paper covered several terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland.

Joe added: “We knew that the paper would be torn up and that we would have to begin again from scratch.

“At such times Dave’s depth of experience and sense of calm would make all the difference.

“For the sub-editors, knowing that he was at the helm meant that we could focus on getting the pages away and meeting the deadlines. However, it was not always hard graft, and Dave knew that there was fun to be had, too.

“He would always find ways of making the stark necessity of earning a living more comfortable for his working colleagues.”

David, who had suffered a long illness, is survived by his wife Nuala, daughter Julia, sons John and Luke and by the wider family.