Belfast Telegraph

Mentor and mate Victor Gordon was fearless and peerless

By Ivan Little

Victor Gordon's last words to our old newspaper editor David Armstrong last week were that he didn't want anyone to make a fuss about him in print after he'd gone.

But I'm sorry, Vicky. I can't honour your wishes, even though I can't think of too many harder things I've ever had to write.

For Victor Gordon was, quite simply, the finest journalist I've ever known.

And I've worked with the cream of our crop, men and women who have soared, quite deservedly, to national and international fame in newspapers and on television.

Victor wasn't in the same league as the globe-trotting big-hitters - but only because he didn't choose to be.

Portadown was his world and he had no ambitions beyond his beloved Portadown Times newspaper, which he served with award-winning consistency, style and class for nearly half a century.

Not only did Victor fearlessly and without favour break thousands of stories, but he also broke the hearts of countless politicians and paramilitaries; scoundrels and sickos; cheats and charlatans who could never figure out how Victor was acquiring his information.

But getting the lowdown on lowlifes gave Victor a high. His contact list was limitless. Anyone and everyone in Portadown would talk to him because he was a man who could be trusted.

I first met Victor when I started work as a shy and nervous junior reporter on the Portadown Times in 1970.

I didn't know a soul in the town. But there wasn't a soul who didn't know Victor. And he was generous about sharing his contacts and his tips about how to put together a good story.

And boy, could he write.

He'd had no formal training but he taught me more in a month than I'd learnt in a year on a journalism course in Belfast.

We became friends. And friendly rivals. We competed to see who could scoop the front page story every week and, shame on us, we even kept score.

After I moved on to work in Belfast, I asked Victor why he didn't strike out to supposedly greater things too. It was one of the stupidest questions I ever asked.

For Victor was happy at home. And his home couldn't have been happier.

He never moved from a modest house on a Portadown estate because everything he needed was inside those four walls, his children Paul, Heather and Fiona and his wife Elizabeth, who often fed and watered me at the family table too.

Victor eventually did work part-time in Belfast and showed that he wasn't in anyone's shadow, but his relationship with his own newspaper became strained under its new owners with cutbacks, job losses and centralised working practices.

By pure coincidence I had lunch with Victor in Portadown only a short time after he told his employers that he was quitting. For the first time.

He was pleased as punch to ring me a few days later to say he'd been offered work in another media outlet.

Victor and I spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago when he told me he was in hospital for tests but he didn't know that his condition was as serious as it was.

On the blower, we laughed and we de-cried the state of the globe, from Trump to Stormont, from Shamrock Park to Windsor Park, and from grammatically-challenged journalists to rubbish TV programmes.

Saying cheerio, I didn't realise I was actually saying farewell to my mate, my mentor - the maestro.

After Victor discovered he was terminally ill, he sent me a private message. Plain, simple, to the point. It was Vicky Gordon to a tee.

Belfast Telegraph

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