THE Portadown pensioner famous for feeding pigeons in the town centre has been told to stop by Criagavon Borough Council’s environmental officers.
Last week Leslie Harrison (69) received an official visit from two council officers who said they had received complaints from the public and that the habit was attracting rats.
Leslie is a familiar figure in front of St Mark’s Church as he provides his feathered friends with bread from Monday to Saturday, but never on Sunday as the worshippers file into the church, and not on occasions like weddings and funerals.
“I’m thinking seriously of defying the orders,” said Leslie. “They confiscated my bag of bread last Thursday and I’m seeing my solicitors to see if they have any right to do that.
“It seems that the individual doesn’t count in this town any more - I can’t see what harm I’ve been doing. But the two gentlemen from the council said they’d had complaints and claimed that the bread was attracting rats, but that’s nonsense. I’ve never seen a rat in this vicinity during the four years I’ve fed the birds.”
And to prove it’s all hygienic, Leslie even feeds the birds mouth-to-mouth, adding that 30 to 50 fly down to avail themselves of his daily bread.
“I suppose I’m a focal point in the town centre, bringing a spot of colour to the scene,” he said. “People stop for a yarn, and while there are one or two who disagree - I was threatened once - I’m convinced that most people support me.”
Leslie sees himself as “a true Portadown man”, having been born and brought up in the long-since-demolished John Street, now occupied by Magowan Buildings. He moved to Garvaghy Park when John Street was no more, and now lives at Victoria Terrace which forms part of the Garvaghy Road.
“There are far too many silly rules and regulations these days,” he said. “It’s beyond me what harm I’m doing feeding the birds. Our family traditionally belongs to St Mark’s and I wouldn’t do anything to annoy the churchgoers. I don’t think I’ll stop feeding the birds, and I question the authority of the council.”
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