Derry ‘Man U’ fanatic, Keith Norris, has been invited up to Stormont by fellow Red Devil, Martin McGuinness, for the launch of a fund-raising campaign to raise £300,000 for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
For those of you who don’t know, Keith is the man behind ‘Big Lily,’ the enormous and iconic Manchester United flag that’s adorned the Stretford End at Old Trafford since 1999.
The Drumahoe-native’s “Big Lily” was born in 1999 during a momentous treble-winning season for the club wearing red from the North West of England.
Over the years Keith has witnessed the massive flag become a unifying emblem, whether you take your lilies white or orange.
He explained: “In Northern Ireland flags are very divisive. They are either Orange, Protestant, Unionist or Green, Nationalist, Catholic, Republican, Loyalist, flags of division, flags of disengagement.
“The one thing about ‘Big Lily.’ It’s a flag of unity, a flag of peace and as opposed to being divisive it unites all Manchester United supporters regardless of their creed or colour.”
In order to raise the £300,000 for UNICEF, which helps children in places riven by conflict around the world, Keith and Martin will be joined at Stormont on November 29, by European Cup winner, prominent member of the Gweedore diaspora and all-round Manchester United legend, Paddy Crerand, to urge people to help break the Guinness World Record for the most signatures on a single flag. You can get involved at the project’s online signing platform at www.mybiglily.com.
Says Paddy, who played in a top six that included George Best, Nobby Stiles, Bobby Charlton, Brian Kidd and John Aston, when United famously beat Eusébio’s Benfica at Wembley in 1968, said: “I was fortunate enough to play 392 times for Manchester United, privileged to play under the leadership of the great Sir Matt Busby and alongside such great players as Denis Law and George Best.
“Working for Manchester United I have met, and continue to meet thousands of United fans from all walks of life.
“One such fanatic I have met both in Manchester and various locations around the world, is Keith Norris. If United are playing anywhere in the world you can be sure Keith will appear with that huge flag of his, ‘Big Lily’ - Brazil, Japan, Spain, Thailand, Italy, Russia to name but a few. How he transports it I will never know.
“The players, the Directors, José Mourinho and every Manchester United fan know of ‘Big Lily.’
“What Keith and his friends, including the legendary, now sadly departed, Martin ‘Faceman’ Cleary, have done for community relations in the Northern Ireland and public relations for Manchester United can only be commended. “Supporters are the lifeblood of Manchester United. Keith Norris and ‘Old Tom’ are ardent supporters and I wish them every success with this truly remarkable project.”