One of the Portadown Markets legends, Sidney Rodgers, has retired. Sidney has been serving from the family flower stall for no fewer than 42 years, from the days it was in the old Central Markets building to current Millennium Court site at William Street, fittingly since the turn of the millennium.
To mark his wonderful contribution to the history of the markets – which run back to the 19th century, markets manager Martin Ferguson – accompanied by Jacqueline Hannon, another market trader (fruit and veg) – presented him with a framed picture of St Mark’s Square, taken before the tower was enlarged in the 1920s.
They went out Sidney home patch at Charlestown, where the family nursery stands. It’s ‘Joseph Rodgers Nursery’ established by his late brother, for whom Sidney worked all those years. Nowadays, Sidney’s son Lindsay runs the thriving family business, and he travels to various markets – as well as retailing from headquarters – to continue the proud tradition.
As a real traditionalist, Sidney prefers the ‘old’ market, where he recalled there were up to 70 stalls on a busy Saturday. “It was really buzzing. Portadown was a really thriving market town in those days, and I loved every minute of it.”
They sold quality flowers, plants and wreaths, all nurtured at the Rodgers Nursery. Said Jacqueline Hannon, “The colours, especially of Sidney’s Mother’s Day floral display, were stunning and will be a vibrant memory to a real character, who is sorely missed at the market.”
Said fellow market trader Colin Weir, “The market will never be the same without Sidney. The van arrived each morning at 6.45 and he set up there and then and set about selling. He did a great trade with quality goods and really enhanced the market.”
Colin remembers the day many years ago when Sidney and Joe arrived, left the van unattended out in William Street, a young tearaway hijacked the van and crashed it into a lamp post. “He got six months jail for his trouble!” Colin added.
Colin and Sidney remember a plethora of characters who set up stall in the golden years – the likes of Harry McNeill (fruit and veg, the same as Colin), David Hull (43 years religious artefacts), Tommy Marley, Billy Smith (bedding), Billy Braden (socks)… The list goes on and on, and the customers packed the old building.
They frankly believe that the borough council didn’t put as much thought into the switch-over as they might have with the move to the current premises. But there is good news ahead with an expansion of the markets, and other projects, on the cards.
Said Colin, “The Market Traders Federation is hoping for more of an input this time, and we know that our newer ‘bosses’ Portadown 2000 are keen to listen to us.”
Meanwhile, Sidney is still putting in a part time stint at Charlestown, still enjoying life albeit at a slower pace. And he’s become a model for a superb painting! Before the old market moved, Joe Hynes did a superb watercolour, and Sidney is shown in the centre of the masterpiece.
It is for sale at the West Street premises of Finnchu McGurgan, (paints and wallpaper), so Sidney is captured for posterity.
He will, indeed, be missed. Tony Fearon, manager of the Millennium Court, said, “On behalf of the board of directors of Portadown 2000, I’d like to wish Sidney a long, healthy and happy retirement. He certainly contributed much to the life of the markets over the years.”