Feathers have been flying in the continuing row between the birdman of Portadown – who feeds the pigeons daily in the town centre – and the council, who want to put a stop to his activities.
Emissaries from the Civic Centre have taken away the seats outside St Mark’s Church where Leslie Harrison and his pensioner friends have fed the birds for seven years, leaving them with nowhere to sit.
“The workmen just rolled up with a lorry and took away the two seats which we have used for at least seven years,” said Leslie. “I think one of our boys took a picture of the removal men. But they haven’t won – we’ll find a way around it. There were no explanations.
“The new-look town centre includes seats all over the place, and they have little to do when they remove our seats. We have contingency plans, but we’re keeping them to ourselves, obviously.”
Court action was taken against Leslie a couple of years ago. He was bound over for 12 months, but continued to feed his feathered friends. It led to a second summons, but he was left to get on with his favourite hobby, with sympathy from some of the town residents.
The dozens of birds, though, make something of a mess with bread going in one end, and the end results coming out the other.
Said Leslie: “It keeps pensioners like myself occupied – gives us something to get out of bed for. We meet most afternoons, we enjoy the craic, and the pigeons enjoy the bread. This latest setback won’t stop us. They may have taken our seats – but we’re taking a stand.”
A spokesman for St Mark’s Church said they fully supported the council action to remove the benches.
“The pigeons were creating a terrible mess,” he said. “Parishioners are sick of it, going to and from church. Our caretaker has had to wash and scrub the area at eight in the mornings to make it presentable for services, weddings and funerals, and it had got beyond toleration.
“There are plenty of areas on the periphery of Portadown where they can feed pigeons – they have become a plague, waiting for their food and this hopefully will put a stop to it.”
Councillor Robert Smith said that his party’s (DUP) office in Thomas Street had been inundated with complaints and that the removal of the seats was taken in view of that.
“I have spoken to the man concerned – and there were about 60 pigeons around him, many messing the streets. He even brought his own chair, but that can’t continue. We have to power hose the War Memorial and the Colonel Saunderson statue almost weekly – at £200 a time - and it simply has to stop.”