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George Rodgers: Inverness mourns newsagent and grandson of Chelsea legend

A community is grieving after the shock news that George Rodgers, of Rodgers Newsagents, has died.
A community is grieving after the shock news that George Rodgers, of Rodgers Newsagents, has died.

Much-loved newsagent, footballer, baker and ‘life and soul of Merkinch’ George Rodgers Jnr, has died just days before his 62nd birthday.

A fan of Chelsea, the team his grandfather played for, George Rodgers is pictured in his Merkinch shop.

The third generation of Rodgers to own the Rodgers’ Highland village store, George was known by everyone in Merkinch not least for his sense of humour and his unrelenting support of Chelsea Football Club – the team his grandfather played for.

Born on August 11, 1959, he was the son of George and Alison Rodgers.

A pupil of Merkinch Primary and then Inverness High School, he became an apprentice baker on leaving school; a career move that would see him work on oil rigs and cruise ships alike.

Footballing legacy

Geordie – as he was known by his friends – like his dad and grandad before him, was also a keen footballer in his youth.

At the home of Clachnacuddin is, from left, Alexander Chisholm, Douglas Rodgers, George’s brother Kevin and then George himself.

Following in the family footballing legacy, he played for both schools teams and was captain of the Clach Boys Club team, playing in the Inverness Street and Youth League.

The team, at one time run by his own dad as well as Ally Chisholm and Billy Corbett, would achieve double cup success along the way.

Clach under-13s with a young George pictured fourth from left on the back row, coached by his dad, shown left.

George was also a committed follower of Scotland – managing to attend some of the national team’s biggest matches in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

A favourite boast of the lad who had met Jock Stein, was that he had seen Pele and Maradona in the flesh and shared great memories of the Scotland bus leaving from outside the shop when he was a child.

While he wouldn’t quite match his grandfather’s level, there was no doubt among George and his friends that he too could have gone further in his football playing career had he chosen to do so.

Baking around the world

As a baker, George had opportunity to leave Inverness. After a spell as Burnett’s Bakery youngest ever foreman, he went offshore, baking on oil rigs, and even worked on cruise ships sailing around the Caribbean.

Training as a baker would open up a world of possibilities for George, who travelled the world using his craft.

After George married Vivienne Watson from Inverness on April 24, 1980, the pair moved to Melbourne, Australia for work, with their baby girl, Paula.

George on his wedding day to Vivienne, right, with their daughter Paula in the arms of Eva Watson, Vivienne’s mum.

Ivan, the couple’s second child, was born in 1991.

He said: “My parents were really young when they got married – just 17 and 20. I was born a wee while after my sister so I have a memory of being quite young when dad started helping my grandfather in the shop.”

A return to Scotland

Back in the Highlands, on his return from Australia in November 1984, George took a job as a baker in supermarket chain, Safeway, and had also worked for  Gateway in Inverness.

But in the early 1990s, he started working part-time with his dad.

Pictured outside the Rodgers’ family newsagents where his grandfather’s footballing roll of honour is displayed, is George Rodgers Junior.

“I think initially it was just that extra help was needed so dad did what he could, but it’s been more than 20 years since he’s been behind the counter running the shop.

“Which means for 20 years or more he’s been at the heart of our community. We’re a busy shop and everybody knows him.”

Hub of the community

The Rodgers’ newsagents is on Grant Street, Merkinch.

Its store front pays homage to the first George Rodgers, who was playing for the tiny team of Kilsyth when he was scouted for London club Chelsea.

George Rodgers the first, pictured during his time playing for Chelsea.

It was on his retirement from the top tier of English football that he moved to the Highlands, met his wife Annie, and opened the same village store which has been now passed down through the generations.

Clach player George Rodgers Snr – son of Chelsea’s George Rodgers, and dad of Merkinch shop proprietor, George Rodgers Jnr who has sadly died.

Three generations of Clachnacuddin footballers, and three generations of Rodgers’ store keepers at the heart of this Inverness community.

Temporarily closed this week as the family came to terms with their sudden and devastating loss, close friend of George, Billy Corbett, said he still couldn’t believe the news.

Inverness High School football team, winners of the 1975 Inverness Schools Trophy with George shown front row, second from right.

He added: “He really was some man. He was quick-witted, known by all and everyone who came across him soon warmed to his banter.

“Passing Rodgers’ shop will just not be the same now. A big hole has been left in the Merkinch.”

Major loss to Merkinch

George is survived by his father George, brother Kevin, and wife Vivienne, as well as his daughter Paula and her partner Paul Stewart, and his son Ivan, his partner Julia Fisher and their two-year-old daughter – George’s granddaughter – Remi.

Four generations of Rodgers: From left is George Rodgers Snr, Ivan Rodgers and daughter Remi, and George Rodgers Jnr who has sadly died, shown in the family shop.

Ivan added: “My dad had a great sense of humour. He would always take the mick out of his friends and made the shop a place people wanted to come to. I don’t have the words at the moment for how we feel. His death was sudden and we are still trying to come to terms with it.”

On the family’s announcement placed on the shop’s Facebook page comments flooded in expressing sadness at the news of George’s death.

Happier days: Vivienne and George Rodgers with their children Paula and Ivan.

Known for his love of home workouts and being a fitness fanatic his death has come as a shock.

One poignant tribute read: “So sorry for your loss – thinking of you all at this sad and difficult time. We will all miss George dearly with his cheeriness and his songs; it was never a dull moment and such a major loss to the whole of Merkinch community.”