Nick Newbery says he was a "naive kid from England" when he went to Northern Ireland to attend university and was surprised to find out Catholics there did not have the same rights to jobs, housing and the ballot box as Protestants.

"We were the heroes of the world because we'd conquered most of the countries in it at some point," he told CBC's Mainstreet.

"You went to Ireland and you thought, 'Well, this is just an extension of where I've come from.'"

Newbery said his eyes were opened and he got involved in a student group that held street marches. He sometimes slipped behind barricades with his camera to try to take some pictures that might earn him a bit of extra money.

"I was passing myself off as the Times of London correspondent if I was in a British area, and as the Catholic Times if I was in another area," said Newbery. He worked for neither.

One night, Newbery saw an Irish Republican Army sniper shot dead. He spoke with other snipers about their stories and took photos.

Another night, someone with an armed Catholic group put a rifle barrel under his chin. When Newbery said he was with the Catholic Times, he was quizzed.

"They said, 'When's the Feast of the Blessed Virgin?' And I thought, 'Thank God I was brought up Catholic,'" said Newbery.

"'Fifteenth of August,' I said. So they said I was fine, I was released." 

Newbery now lives on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia and is giving a public talk tonight at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.