Longtime statewide outdoor writer and North Country newspaper owner John Harrigan of Colebrook has joined InDepthNH’s growing staff of contributors and will write what he and founder Nancy West agree will be on a haphazard basis on anything he wants.
“There’ll be some quirky stuff,” Harrigan says. “I’m getting more unpredictable with age.”
He has been working in various media, with a lot of radio and television but mostly newspapers, for 47 years. View from Above the Notches debuts on Monday.
Harrigan, a first-year college dropout, began working at various jobs at 13 and bagged groceries, shoveled snow, picked potatoes, bailed boats and cleaned cabins at sporting camps, and worked at the Ethan Allen furniture factory before fetching up at the Lorden Lumber Company in Milford in 1967.
In 1968, he took a day off from pushing lumber around and scouted for inside jobs in downtown Nashua, and by sheer luck and French-Irish bombast, he says, landed a job at the afternoon daily Nashua Telegraph, circulation 22,000, where he soon went from darkroom trainee to engraver to holding down the police, fire and court beats and writing his first regular column.
That was almost a half-century ago “and still counting,” Harrigan says. In the interim he worked for several years full-time for the New Hampshire Sunday News, and kept running his column “Woods, Water & Wildlife” even long after he left, for a 37-year run, one of the longest-running columns in the state. Later in his career he owned the Coös County Democrat and The Northern Beacon in Lancaster and the News and Sentinel in Colebrook, as well as Coös Junction Press, a newspaper printing plant.
He now writes a regular “North Country Notebook” column for the dozen papers in the Meredith-based Salmon Press group covering the northern two-thirds of the state from Concord north to Canada and parts of Maine and Vermont as well as his daughter Karen’s paper in Colebrook, the News and Sentinel (Est. 1870), and does a regular Thursday 7:10 a.m. radio show on Concord’s WTPL with well-known host Peter St. James.
“I’ve known Nancy West for years and consider her a real pro,” Harrigan says. “You get to be like a draft horse in harness at this business, not that Nancy looks like a horse.”
His take on his relationship with InDepthNH.org, he says, is that he’ll write a column when he feels like it, augmented by any stray and interesting news items from around the state that catch his eye.
“Above all, I’m in it to have fun and at the same time try to provide some continuity of history and tradition and identity and meaning and sense of place that’s so sadly missing in so much of the media scene,” Harrigan said. “There should be a common thread running through what we do and are all about, and it’s hard for people to find now and grasp.”
During his Sunday News years, he said, he had the run of the entire state, doing features and news stories on a wide variety of topics. “I’m in no way limited to a strict parochial North Country perspective,” he said. “There are a lot of great places and fine people all over the southern two-thirds of New Hampshire that are just like home.”
Harrigan writes from an upstairs office on his farm three miles out of Colebrook atop a 1556-foot elevation ridge with a 35-mile view that he says encompasses one state and two foreign countries (you have to think about that, he says).