February 7th 2017
Bury-ing Bad News

“This is possibly the biggest sports development to happen in Bury for a very long time. The investment, not only in Bury Grammar School pupils, but also for the wider community is testament to our commitment to increasing sports participation and excellence.” – Bury Grammar School Headteacher Richard Marshall, quoted in the Bury Times on October 13th 2016.

“Outside lettings isn’t something we really do. The Governors have decided to keep the facility for the kids; we will not being doing any outside bookings moving forward.” – Bury Grammar School Headteacher Richard Marshall to a member of our New Business Team on February 3rd 2017.

Spot the difference?

It’s all very well saying one thing in the press when you’re stood next to the Mayor and his consort (above) and the cameras are clicking, it’s quite another when 100 local footballers see their league taken from under them.

You might even call the first one “fake news”. It is all the rage these days, after all.

Bury Grammar School cancelled our booking in December (read the full story here), then after the article went on our website they tried to get it taken down. However, they reckoned without Leisure Leagues’ unwavering commitment to our teams in particular, but community sport in general and we sought to find a way forward with Mr Marshall. He, citing governor wishes, has turned his back on the community of Bury and refused to allow footballers – perhaps not privileged enough to go to a school with such wonderful facilities – to use the pitch.

Today we ask Mr. Marshall and the School Governor’s a direct question: You don’t see your role in the community and that is fair enough, but would Clifford Billings have felt the same? In fact where would you be without Clifford Billings? Without a pitch, that’s for sure.

Clifford Billings was an old man of 92 years old when he died. And he has a rather important part to play in this tale. How? Well, he paid for the pitch. How do we know this? Because back in last May a school spokesman said this in the Bury Times – and my how this school likes being in the Bury Times! – “This phase of the development work has been made possible by the generosity of several supporters of the school. In particular, Mr Clifford Billings, who passed away recently at the age of 92.

“Mr Billings, a BGS Old Boy, was a gifted footballer and played for our BGS Old Boys team until well into his fifties. He remained a supporter of BGS for many years and the updating of our BGSB sports facilities is testimony to his continued generosity to the school.”

A little bit of digging reveals the full picture of Mr Billings. A popular, religious man, he loved both Bury as a town and Bury Football Club, and he was clearly passionate that the young people of Bury were given the very best he could afford.

He died almost a year ago. His selflessness even extended beyond the grave. So charitable were he and his family, they requested mourners who attended his funeral on 24th March didn’t bring flowers. They asked money was given to the Salvation Army instead. They knew, perhaps, that flowers wither and die. Charitable work inspires. Forever.

Mr Billings was acutely aware of this. His family described him as “A man of integrity and concern for his fellow man.” Let’s suppose this man didn’t have the chances of some others, let us suppose for one minute that he didn’t have access to the very best sporting facilities in the area. Men like Mr. Billings would have made it happen.

Men not as strong as him pay lip service to “community usage” in return for a photo opportunity. What a shame that what should have been a legacy bequeathed to a whole town will actually be used by just a privileged few.

Andy Thorley

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