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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Clare Arron

Mike Arron obituary

Mike Arron
Mike Arron’s first commission was to photograph prisoners of war at a camp in Cheshire Photograph: none

My father, Mike Arron, who has died aged 94, was a Manchester-based press photographer. He spent most of his career as a freelance covering major news stories, some of them harrowing.

He covered the disasters at Aberfan (1966), Ibrox (1971), Manchester airport (1985) and Lockerbie (1988), as well as the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He rarely spoke of such experiences but was determined to show the world what had happened.

Mike was born in the Levenshulme area of Manchester to Joan (nee Ford), who was employed in service in Cheshire houses, and Morris, a master tailor; he had fled a pogrom of Jews in Lithuania in the late 1880s.

Brought up in Hale, Cheshire, where he attended Bradbury boys school, Mike started experimenting with photography as a young teenager. His parents let him have a darkroom in their back bedroom but banned him from trying out flashgun powder in the house after various dangerous incidents.

A Mike Arron photograph featuring his wife, Shirley, playing draughts with the family boxer, Max
A Mike Arron photograph featuring his wife, Shirley, playing draughts with the family boxer, Max Photograph: Mike Arron

He left school at 15 to work at the Northern Press photographic agency in Hale, where, during the second world war, his first commission was to photograph German and Italian prisoners being held at a local camp. Cycling there with a large, old-fashioned Thornton Pickard reflex camera and glass plates balanced on his handle bars, he became friendly with the prisoners and would have tea with them.

In 1947 he signed up with the RAF for his two years of national service, and asked to go into the photographic unit. The officer in charge refused to write down his request on the relevant form, so when he had to leave the room for a short while, Mike liked to tell the tale of how he nipped round to the other side of the desk and wrote it in himself.

He got the posting he wanted, and was sent to Germany, where he was tasked with cataloguing photographs from the Nuremberg trials and of Belsen concentration camp. Despite the disturbing circumstances he developed a love of Germany, and indeed of continental Europe, which remained with him for the rest of his life.

Margaret Thatcher taking tea with cub scouts in Lancashire, taken by Mike Arron in the 1980s
Margaret Thatcher taking tea with cub scouts in Lancashire, taken by Mike Arron in the 1980s Photograph: Mike Arron

After the RAF Mike gradually established himself as a freelance photographer. He was away from home a lot, but outside work, family and friends were very much his focus. He finally hung up his cameras at the age of 72, when he came home from a job complaining that a PR person had annoyed him so much that he was calling it a day.

Mike married Shirley Newton in 1959 after they had met at a dance in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. At their wedding she refused to wear a white dress because he refused to wear top hat and tails – and that was pretty much how they carried on for 58 years; very different but very together.

For many years Shirley ran the business side of Mike’s activities from home, and in retirement they became regular crown green bowlers. He also enjoyed fly fishing in the remotest parts of Caithness and Sutherland.

Shirley died in 2017. He is survived by me and his three grandchildren, Tom, Lucy and Neil. A son, Simon, died in 2022.

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