Nat Richardson family thanks for ‘acts of kindness’ in tribute to respected Portadown football figure

As a mark of the respect in which Nat Richardson was held by his Portadown Football Club family and the wider Irish League circle, even the hundreds and hundreds of tributes, messages and cards delivered since his passing on Friday stand only as small measure.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 12:15 am
Updated Friday, 4th December 2020, 8:21 pm
Nat Richardson. Pic courtesy of Portadown Football Club.

Considered “one of the most devoted and selfless figures in Portadown Football Club history” by chairman Ronnie Stinson, Nat was universally admired for his generosity of spirit and depth of character.

He succumbed to a short illness the day before his 82nd birthday in the latest loss for one of Portadown’s best-known families following the deaths of brothers David and Freddie and sister Lily all within 2020.

Only four siblings now remain of the 14-strong Richardson children who once shared a family home in the Tavanagh Gardens area of Jervis Street.

As a boy, Nat would make the short walk up to Shamrock Park to watch Portadown, early steps on a lifelong love affair with the football club and his home town.

Although ever reluctant to grab the limelight, Nat took great delight in spreading the name of Portadown as a passionate advocate for the town as a whole and, in particular, the virtues of the football club.

“It means so much to our family to see the love and respect for my Dad, with people so generous in paying tribute despite the coronavirus restrictions,” said son Paul on behalf of his mother Jean and brother Steven, plus Nat’s grandchildren, great-grandson and entire Richardson family circle (donations to Craigavon Cardiac Care Association via George McNabb & Co funeral directors). “We have had hundreds of cards and countless messages over social media speaking so highly of Dad.

“It has certainly been a true comfort and source of strength to the family and we thank everyone for the acts of kindness.

“Portadown Football Club changed the badge on social media in tribute to Dad and wore tee-shirts with his picture printed before Saturday’s match.

“So many players past and present and club representatives, plus friends from all walks of life, lined the streets and stood at Shamrock Park to honour the funeral hearse, with applause on top of the club scarves and picture attached to the ground’s gates along with flowers.

“My brother and I have so many childhood memories connected to the club and of spending time around Shamrock Park, from bundling together matchday programmes at home on Fridays to learning to drive around Shamrock Park’s former stock car track or helping get the old Boardroom ready ahead of games.

“Dad on an almost daily basis would visit the ground to help out alongside great friends such as Bill Emerson and Walter McElroy.

“It was such an important part of his life and he took such pride in promoting the club and town to people.”

Nat could recall as a child walking around the Shamrock Park pitch with a friend at half-time displaying the winning draw number on a blackboard attached to an old brush shaft.

Over the years he would turn his hand to a wide range of duties in service to the club from painting walls to handling turnstiles cash to helping create a matchday programme...and everything else imaginable, always operating behind the scenes with quiet dedication but forever trusted.

“He was a true Portadown great with a deep love and passion for the football club and town,” said Stinson. “Nat would step in and help in any way possible at any time, nothing was ever too much when it came to the club.

“People like Nat make a club and Irish League football survives thanks to such dedication.

“He will be remembered as a significant figure in Portadown Football Club history but also a gentleman and wonderful family man.

“Our condolences following what is a devastating loss.”

In latter years his matchday commitments would centre on a role as one of the first faces for visiting club representatives and tributes across the Irish League reflected the high esteem in which he was held as a friend to many beyond the traditional on-the-pitch rivalry.

His faith in the power of encouragement over criticism was highlighted by a number of Portadown players, current and former, who would often benefit at lowest points from Nat’s words of comfort.

Generations of fans enjoyed sharing in his passion for Portadown and many would be met at Shamrock Park with a piece of memorabilia or simple invite to share in the hospitality as small gestures by Nat on behalf of his club towards helping make it your club.

Nat and his brother George, the latter a long-serving kitman at Portadown, were both honoured with Lifetime Membership awards in 2013 as part of the club’s 125th anniversary celebrations.

Nat’s humility at such recognition perfectly epitomises his belief in service without fanfare.

“I was certainly shocked with the Lifetime Membership award and have always just considered it a privilege to be able to help the club in any way possible,” he said at the time. “I have so many wonderful memories from over the years.

“I love being a part of the family club and always encourage people to get out and support Portadown.

“After all, this is our club for our community and we need to back it as much as possible.”