Journalism is a noble profession – the celebrated fourth estate – and, for most of 50 years, I have been privileged to be part of that illustrious field.
Indeed, as part of my involvement in the ancient craft of news-gathering, I have been privileged to know and work closely with Victor Gordon, who very sadly passed away at his Portadown home on Sunday night.
Victor was an absolute one-off, a journalist with few peers whose highly prolific skills as a news gatherer made him an institution in his home town of Portadown, and brought him to the attention of the newspaper dailies, in Northern Ireland and on the UK mainland, as a reliable sounding board for happenings and opinions in the ‘Hub of the North’, as Portadown became known.
Nothing happened in Portadown (and in the wider sphere of Craigavon) without Victor knowing about it; he had his finger firmly on the pulse of every facet of community, church and sporting life in his home town, and if the story was up to it, there was only one place it had to be – on the pages of the Portadown Times.
I first met Victor Gordon in 1971 when I joined the Portadown News. That year we were intense rivals, with Victor’s Portadown Times office just 50 yards along Thomas Street from where I worked.
In January, 1972 the Portadown News folded and, with highly respected senior journalist Brian Courtney and photographer Randal Mulligan, we were warmly welcomed into the editorial staff of what became the Portadown Times/News, then part of the thriving Morton Newspapers’ group.
Victor, along with big Ivan Little, became close newspaper colleagues and buddies of mine. Ivan, like myself, was an avid Linfield fan and the football banter in the office was rich with Victor, editor David Armstrong and Brian Courtney lining up solidly for the Ports.
After 21 months with the Times/News, I moved to the Belfast News Letter; Ivan’s career also took him to Belfast. But Victor remained in situ and, over four decades in his beloved home town, he became an institution, winning five provincial newspaper of the year awards for his crusading news role.
The early 1970s and that decade was a difficult period in Portadown with loyalist unrest in response to the IRA terrorist campaign and tit-for-tat sectarian incidents. Heinous murders were committed and, living in nearby Tandragee, I was able, as a Belfast News Letter reporter, to regularly join Victor in covering these dark, unsettling events.
Together, we visited the homes of families of murdered victims and, while it was a harrowing task, I was reassured by having Victor in my company as he intimately knew the people of Portadown.
Victor had an insatiable news appetite; his lust for a story took high priority. Every Saturday morning, he would be seen in Portadown town centre talking to this one and that one; building up a rich fund of stories for the following week’s paper.
He was a fair, compassionate journalist who shied away from an editor’s desk. He best enjoyed working on the stump writing stories that struck a chord with the good people of Portadown.
• The funeral is at 2pm today at Armagh Road Presbyterian Church, Portadown, and is open to all.