On the 5th April 2023 the town of Portadown lost one of its true gentlemen with the passing of Brian Courtney. Journalist, historian, proud follower of Portadown FC, member of the Loyal Orders, railway enthusiast, but above all a father and husband.
I have so many great memories of the hours spent in the press box at Shamrock Park on Saturday afternoons with Brian and his late colleague Victor Gordon. I listened in awe as he regaled us with stories of watching Portadown FC in the 1940’s and 50’s and beyond. Stories of the greats he saw and indeed interviewed including Gibby McKenzie, Billy Cush, Alex McSpadyen, Alex Harley and many more. I watched and learned from this quiet spoken gentleman as he calmly went about his business reporting on the club he loved.
When he was nine years old Brian and his family moved to ‘The Walk’ area of Portadown to a house in Park Road where he attended Park Road Primary School. He used to enjoy as a boy listening to Parkmount Flute band practising in ‘The Hut’.
Brian began his career in journalism as a young ‘cub reporter’ with the Portadown News in 1953 before moving to the rival paper The Portadown Times in 1957. He returned to ‘The News’ in 1967 before both papers amalgamated in 1973 with the takeover by Morton Newspapers. It was as a reported that he had the joy and privilege of following his beloved Portadown FC around the country, reporting on their exploits across the decades. As well as covering football Brian was also a court reporter and feature writer covering many aspects of the history of the town.
I recall how Brian told me of his part in a little bit of football history which took place on Saturday 22nd August 1964. Brian had been visiting relatives in England and by chance decided to take in a match between Liverpool and Arsenal. This as it happened was the first match to appear on the new BBC TV programme Match of the Day.
He was involved in another piece of history in 1959 when he travelled on the last ever train between Portadown and Armagh and recalled the sense of anger and frustration that was prevalent amongst those last passengers on the line.
The late 1980’s and 1990’s were times of great success for Portadown FC and as well as reporting on that success Brian joined the newly formed programme committee at Shamrock Park along with Nat Richardson, Lindsay Kilpatrick, Kenny Hill and Lawrence Cinnamond. Such was the success of the programme produced by these gentleman that it won awards as the best in the Irish League. Indeed so popular was the matchday programme that profits were used to sign new players for the club.
Even when he was not reporting on a match Brian would travel to games with his nephew Alexander Prentice, his great friend Victor Gordon and Victor’s daughter Fiona and their friend John Connor. This little group of travelling fans dubbed themselves the Killicomaine Reds Supporters Club. They saw the highs and the lows but for Brian aside from all the trophy success, he believed the greatest ever match he witnessed was against Ards in 1990 where an injury time Sandy Fraser goal sent the travelling support wild with delight. For sheer emotion that goal always lived with Brian.
We all at Portadown FC will miss our friend Brian and send our sincere condolences to Sylvia, Colin and all the family circle at this sad time.