Former builder respected for honour and decency

Victor Gates
Victor Gates

A man who co-founded a successful Portadown building firm has died at the age of 89.

Victor Gates, formerly of Connaught Park, was born to James and Margaret Gates into a two-up, two-down in North Street, Portadown, the second of four children. Eric was first. Victor followed less than two years later, then, after longer gaps, Jim and Jean.

Victor was close to all of his siblings growing up. In his later years the highlights of many weeks were his walks along the River Bann with his late brother, Eric, when they would have a good catch-up.

Despite the distances between Portadown and Australia, to which Jim emigrated as a young man, and America, where Jean settled in her 20s, Victor and his younger siblings were close too.

Jean recalls the numerous kindnesses Victor showed towards her as a child. She remembers how, when Victor was courting his future wife Eileen, and trying to keep her sweet with Brazil nut toffees, if he had any left over he would drop them into the top of Jean’s schoolbag where she would have the pleasure of discovering them later!

Victor served his time as a bricklayer and, newly-qualified, went to live and work in London for a while to help rebuild the city after the Second World War. He would later recall how, in his naivety as a very young man, he thought he could step off the train in London and ask - and be told - where Marley’s Yard was!

Victor worked hard for many years developing his skills as a bricklayer and joiner before co-founding the building contracting firm - Gates and Hughes - in Thomas Street in the early Sixties with his great friend Tommy Hughes.

Victor and Tommy built the firm from nothing and it became very successful with their reputation for quality work, coupled with honour and decency in business dealings, ensuring that work flowed in.

The firm traded for 20 years and during that time Victor was always scrupulously fair towards his clients and workforce. Every job he tackled was completed to the highest standard.

Victor was a loving son, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He attended to his mother, Margaret (Granny Gates), closely as she aged, visiting her every Friday night, taking her to church every Sunday morning and inviting her to spend every Sunday afternoon with his family.

Dad was a devoted husband to his wife, Eileen. They worked as a close team bringing up their family in Hartfield Avenue, Redmanville, from the 1950s to the late 1970s - Kenny first, then Jimmy, David, Wesley and Roslyn. The boys have many happy memories of growing up in Hartfield Avenue - of cowboy costumes at Christmas and football on The Green. Victor and Eileen provided their family with a safe, secure and happy home and a good example of how to live their lives.

In the early 1980s Victor bought seven acres along the Red Lion Road, Loughgall, and decided to build a family home on a hill, surrounded by orchards. He named it ‘Setag Lodge’ – ‘Setag’ being ‘Gates’ spelt backwards. The family resided at Loughgall for 11 years, from 1984 to 1995, before moving back to Connaught Park.

Victor’s strong moral code was evident throughout his life. In hard times his metal shone through.

In 2003, when his beloved wife Eileen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, Victor was her rock - a constant guide and support by her side. The family was deeply moved by the love and compassion he showed towards Eileen throughout her nine-year illness.

Victor accepted whatever came his way in life; if he couldn’t change a situation, he accepted it, and bore hard times with stoicism and quiet strength.

Victor and Eileen had a joyful Golden Wedding Anniversary celebration in 2002, surrounded by friends and family, and in 2012 - a few months before Eileen died - they made it to 60 years, celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in the same year as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Victor was always generous. He was loyal, and in many cases, when he made friends, he made them for life. Victor led a full and fulfilling life; he gave and received God’s gift of love in abundance; and when his time came, he was more than ready to go. He died peacefully at Ard Mhacha Care Home in Armagh on April 3.

Victor’s life was celebrated at a service at Epworth Methodist Church in Portadown followed by burial at Kernan Cemetery.

He is survived by his brother James, sister Jean, children Kenneth, James, David, Wesley and Roslyn, daughters-in-law Helen and Bodil, son-in-law Peter, grandchildren Leah, Rachel, John, Erin, Michael and Tim and great grandchildren Judah, William, Bethany and James.