County Armagh and far beyond will be saddened to learn of the passing of former Portadown Times journalist Brian Courtney, who passed away this morning (Wednesday).
It comes in the same week that John Bingham, a veteran sports writer at the publication’s sister title, the Lurgan Mail, also passed.
Both had a huge influence in newspaper circles over many years.
Brian Courtney had been a stalwart of local journalism and he and the late Victor Gordon – under their editor Davy Armstrong – had been the driving force behind the newspaper in its heydey.
He began his working life in the Portadown News 70 years ago and moved from there to the Portadown Times in 1957, where he remained for the next decade. In 1967 he returned to the Portadown News but found himself back at the Times in the early 1970s when the Morton Newspaper Group acquired the title.
He remained there until his retirement many years later.
During that time, Brian turned his hand to all the expected fare to be found in the pages of a well-respected weekly paper; he also produced his own weekly feature, Those Were The Days, reflecting with fondness on the changing face of a town he loved so well and sharing memories of a bygone age.
He had witnessed so much change in the industry over the years and even after his retirement kept close links with the Portadown Times and will be fondly remembered by his many colleagues over the years.
Mr Courtney’s son, Colin, broke the news of his father’s passing on social media.
He said: “Many thanks again all for your kind words of support, friendship, thoughts and prayers. Regrettably my Dad passed away peacefully just before 9am this morning.
“My heart is truly broken. What makes it worse was after being at the hospital for 16 hours, I wasn’t there at the end, but I take comfort in thinking that maybe that’s what he wanted, he just didn’t want me to see him like that.
“Portadown Football Club to the end, the last conversation I had with him was about Portadown’s chances of beating Ballymena on Good Friday. Maybe the Wee Ports can use that as inspiration. Go out and win it for Brian Courtney.
“My father, my hero, my best friend and one of my greatest supporters, I will always miss you. Rest easy Dad.”
Former Portadown Times editor David Armstrong said: “The death of Brian Courtney marks the end of an era in local newspaper reporting.
“Brian was a legendary figure in local newspapers and was my senior reporter on the Portadown Times where he worked for many years.
“Brian had many attributes and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of local affairs, having covered the county meetings and the local council scene in Portadown and Armagh over many years.
“He was a brilliant court reporter and years in the courtroom gave him a talent as a mimic that entertained the staff on many a dull afternoon.
“Outside of work, where he was a faithful and dedicated staff member, Brian’s first love was Portadown Football Club and only recently he was the guest speaker at the Tuesday morning get-together at Shamrock Park where he fascinated club President Paul Hunniford and the gathering with his knowledge of the club.
“No-one knew more about the club – Brian had been following the Ports since his schooldays and could rhyme off details about matches played 70 years ago.
“Brian’s death will be mourned by a great many people and wherever local newspapers are talked about his name will be mentioned with reverence. He was a colossus on the local newspaper scene.”
Former colleague Mairead Holland said: “I have so many wonderful memories of working with Brian. He was a lovely man and a top journalist.
“Brian was a meticulous court and council reporter, with impeccable shorthand, as well as a talented sports reporter and avid Portadown FC fan.
“In the days pre-internet, Brian was Mr Google. He had an encyclopaedic memory, particularly for all things historical, and could rhyme off facts and dates.
“Brian took me to cover my first court case. It was like walking in with a celebrity. Everyone knew and respected him.
“In all the years I worked with Brian, I never heard him raise his voice. He was a consummate professional. In fact, the only time I ever saw a hint of irritation was when the Ports had played badly, but that could often be remedied with a cup of tea and a biscuit.
“Brian was loved by many and my thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.”