‘Betty’s big bash’ raises record-breaking total for Macmillan

A FORMER Montrose man has smashed a regional fund-raising record for Macmillan Cancer Support by raising more than £11,000 in one night in memory of his late wife.

And by the time donations after the event organised by Bill Burnett are taken into account, the total will stand at £12,800.

Mr Burnett, who now lives in Peterlee, County Durham, arranged the fund-raiser for the charity after losing his wife Betty, who came originally from Brechin, to pancreatic cancer in July last year.

The idea was put forward in January by his two daughters, Lynne Coulson and Carole Barclay, as a way of thanking the charity for the support their mother and family had received during her illness.

But over the course of several months’ planning the event, ‘Betty’s Big Bash’, snowballed beyond all expectation attracting support from Alan Shearer and Lee Westwood as well as a host of individuals and businesses in the area.

Mr Burnett said: “My daughters mentioned it at Christmas as I used to be involved with a local non-league football team and use to organise sportsmen’s nights for it, so I had a bit of a background in organising things like that.

“What we had in mind was that if we sold about 180 tickets for a meal and entertainment with a raffle and auction, we would maybe touch £4,000.

“We spoke to Macmillan and they helped us by printing the tickets, and we sold 180 in a week. We had to go back to the venue and rearrange things and, because it was the venue I’d used for the football club the council, which runs it, gave it to me for nothing.

“We ended up selling 280 tickets and had a waiting list too.”

Mr Burnett added that when word of what the family was doing spread, the support became “overwhelming”.

He said: “The caterer had lost a relative to cancer and said she would do the meals at cost. We hired a band for the night and they ended up making a donation back to us and no matter who we spoke to they said they would do it for nothing or half price. A group of professional dancers who came from Newcastle did the evening for expenses only.”

Donations for the auction also took the family by surprise, including two holidays to luxury resorts in Cornwall and the Lake District, a Manchester United shirt signed by David Beckham and a Newcastle United shirt signed by Alan Shearer.

Both Mr and Mrs Burnett were keen followers of golf and the contribution of a signed shirt and photograph from Lee Westwood came after Mr Burnett contacted the then World Number one at his club.

He said: “When I got the total at the end of the night I couldn’t believe it was right and when I announced it everyone stood up and clapped. I was really touched and I’d like to think the success was a combination of people who knew Betty and the reputation Macmillan has.”