Friday, 5 August 2016

Úna McBride

I was sorry to hear that Úna McBride had passed away at the age of 59. Úna has deservedly been in the news recently because, despite terminal cancer, she raised large sums of money for charities such as Queenscourt Hospice and MacMillan Cancer Support, culminating in a special 'Courage and Sparkle' event in St George's Hall, Liverpool.

The Bec in happier days with brass band and brewery dray
Six years ago, Úna was involved in an entirely different campaign: to reopen the Becconsall pub in Hesketh Bank. The Bec, as it was known, was originally the hunting, shooting and fishing lodge for the local aristocratic Hesketh family. It eventually became a pub and was run for 25 years by Úna's parents, Frank and Úna McBride. Being the only local pub, it was central to village life, although in latter years it went in to decline. After it closed in 2009, Úna began a campaign in the name of her elderly mother, known locally as Mrs Mc, to reopen the Bec, not just as a pub, but as a community social enterprise for use by local groups and residents for meetings and functions. 

She set up the 'Save The Becconsall' committee which quickly became very active and was able to attract interest in the project from a pub entrepreneur. Úna and her team worked tirelessly to resurrect this fondly-remembered pub, hoping to provide a valuable asset for the community. I spoke to her on the phone several times so that I could cover the campaign in the local CAMRA magazine Ale & Hearty, which I then edited. I also mentioned her campaign on this blog. 

Maureen Baldwin from the action group said at the time: “The Becconsall was always a very attractive family pub when it was owned by the McBride family and it would be great if we could recreate that once again.”

Sadly that was not to be because a structural survey revealed that the building had been so badly neglected by its final owners that it was beyond economic repair. Demolition followed and the site was then redeveloped into houses and flats.

Despite her own battles against cancer, Úna later applied her formidable campaigning skills to raising thousands of pounds for health-related charities for which she was honoured just a few weeks ago at the Merseyside Women of the Year Awards. I admire her inspiring fundraising work for good causes undertaken when she was seriously ill herself, but also remember her earlier work as a highly committed pub campaigner on behalf of her community in Hesketh Bank.

An edited version of this will appear in the CAMRA column in the local paper, the Southport Visiter.

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