Tribute to NUJ member Victor Gordon
Victor Gordon - © private
Victor outisde the bomb-damaged Portadown Times office in the 1980s - © private
8 September 2017
Victor Gordon, NUJ stalwart and one of Northern Ireland’s best known weekly newspaper journalists, has died. His death came just short of his 76th birthday and just two weeks after a cancer diagnosis.
Victor had been a reporter for the Portadown Times, a weekly newspaper in Co Armagh, since 1970. He was a long-serving union activist and FOC, representing NUJ members across many weekly newspapers in Northern Ireland. He never shied away from challenging management.
He took the same diligent approach to his journalism, winning five awards as the province’s top weekly newspaper reporter.
Many tributes have been paid following his death, by former colleagues and by figures right across the political spectrum – from the DUP and the Orange Order, to Sinn Fein and the SDLP. He won that respect through integrity and even-handedness, and certainly not by going easy on anyone.
He was the archetypal old school hack with no formal training. He never worried about who he annoyed in pursuit of a good story, but played it straight and fair too. Portadown was often a tough beat in the Troubles, a town scarred by violence and division.
There were attempts at retirement in recent years, but he became a prolific freelancer, contributing regularly to daily newspapers, as well as the Portadown Times. However, witnessing cutback after cutback in the weekly newspaper industry left him angry and frustrated. In early August, this veteran union man was railing against management once again, as he announced another retirement.
He posted on Facebook that his freelance efforts with his beloved Portadown paper had come to an end, stating:
"I haven't been feeling well for the past few weeks and that - allied to the savage cuts in the papers - has made me think deeply.
"Of course, the staff who remain are doing all they possibly can, but the odds are stacked high against everyone."
He talked of writing a book, but just a month on from that Facebook post he was dead and buried. His passing made front page news in the daily papers and well-known faces from the worlds of journalism and politics attended his funeral in his home town.
Victor was my uncle, he helped me get my first reporter job, and kept a watchful eye over my career ever since. Like a great many others, I was very fortunate to have him as a role model and mentor.
David Gordon has worked for the Larne and Newtownabbey Times, the Belfast Telegraph and the BBC. He is a former FOC at the Belfast Telegraph.