To mark Remember A Charity Week, we spoke to Grace Cuming whose sister Ruth – a lifelong United fan – asked for funds raised from the sale of her impressive collection of club memorabilia to be donated to the Foundation after she passed away. In total, £1,000 was raised, allowing Ruth to leave a lasting legacy at the club she loved so much.
Tell us about Ruth's lifelong support of United - where did it all start?
We grew up in Belfast where there is a big United support, other clubs too of course, but there is a strong connection between the club, the city and indeed the whole of Northern Ireland. Like many United fans, her support started in the wake of the Munich Air Disaster.
There were plenty of Northern Irish players that played for United around that time and in the years following, including goalkeeper Harry Gregg and, of course, Georgie Best. I think this certainly helped to fire Ruth’s passion for United and, in a lovely twist of fate, the plot where she is buried happened to be very close to where George is. So she was truly United until the end.
In more recent times, I remember two of her favourites were Peter Schmeichel and David Beckham. I recall her writing a letter to David in 1998, after he had been sent off playing for England at the World Cup and was having a hard time; she felt compelled to offer her support and received a very personal reply from David. Ruth felt really connected to United and this kind interaction was common for her - I think it strengthened her bond with the club.
Do you recall any of her fondest memories following United?
I think it would have to be the 1999 Champions League final that she attended. Ruth would travel to games on her own but made friends all over through her support of United, and there are some lovely pictures of her with those friends at that memorable match.
Two of her most prized possessions were the shirt the team wore that night and the matchday programme, which she managed to get signed by all but one of the Treble winning team. She called them her treasures and were one of the many things she wanted to be sold to help raise funds for charities close to her heart, including the Foundation.
What kind of memorabilia did Ruth have and why do you think she felt so passionately about donating the funds raised to the Foundation?
She had all sorts in her collection and it took us a good while to find it and gather it all together! There was all sorts of merchandise, signed shirts and programmes as I have mentioned – a true treasure trove for a United fan!
In terms of why she picked the Foundation, Ruth had worked with children all her life and was a teacher at an inner-city school in Belfast. Even though she didn’t play herself, she always encouraged the pupils to get involved with football and sport, supporting their passions. She was definitely a champion of the underdog and I think – when you add in her love of United - the Foundation was a perfect blend for her. It summed up what she was all about.
How proud do you think it would make her to see her kindness helping to support her club in the community, through the work we do with young people?
I think it would make her very proud, particularly with the Foundation now also working in Northern Ireland at Ulster University. I don’t think she would have known about that, but I know it would make her very happy.
What would you say to others thinking of making a similar gesture?
There are many people who have the same kind of passion for United as Ruth had, and I think part of their love comes from the community element of supporting a football club. When you learn about what the Foundation does, it’s a lovely way of leaving a legacy to something that brought so much joy to you, and that’s exactly how Ruth felt.
If you are thinking of leaving your own legacy, please click here for more information.