A community campaigner and Brighton and Hove Albion superfan has been honoured – by having a bus named after her.
Mary Emery, who died aged 93 in February, had followed Brighton and Hove Albion for 89 years, and was at the vanguard of a passionate campaign to save the team in the 1990s when they faced financial ruin and accusations of board mismanagement, eventually losing their Goldstone home ground in 1997.
Her son Robert Emery said she became involved in demonstrations on the seafront against the club’s directors after a fellow supporter – Marie Claire staffer Anna Swallow – suggested her presence would lend a new perspective to the protests.
Robert said the campaign gave her a new lease of life: “She was really at the forefront of it. It gave her a buzz, to be honest. They loved her on the BBC.
“Being Northern Irish, she could always hold her own in a conversation. She had one or two toe-to-toes with David Bellotti (the club’s CEO). She was feisty but polite.”
Mary’s love for the Seagulls was ignited in 1929 when she was just five years old after watching them beat Clapton Orient in a Division 3 game.
Her devoted love for the Albion remained undimmed until she passed away aged 93.
Robert said: “She loved them so much because she loved Brighton and Hove and she loved Sussex and they were part of it. She always used to say, ‘we’re doing this for future generations’.”
In 2003, Mary represented supporters alongside DJ Fatboy Slim, football presenter Des Lynam and Paul Samrah when they delivered more than 6,500 letters to 10 Downing Street pleading with the Government to approve plans for a new 22,000-capacity stadium in Falmer.
She lived to see the new Amex Stadium at Falmer that she helped make possible.
Mary was also a well-known community campaigner and fought for a range of local issues, including saving St Helen’s Church in Hangleton and supporting the Brighton Breast Cancer Unit.
Robert said his mum would have been amused by having her name on a bus: “She would’ve seen the funny side of it and she would have been very proud.”
The Mary Emery bus will be launched at Amex Stadium on Wednesday August 1 at 11am.