Parish rallies around to help pay for memorial to well-known resident

PUBLISHED: 08:43 07 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:39 07 February 2019

Brian Mays from Thaxted died aged 61 last month. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Brian Mays from Thaxted died aged 61 last month. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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Residents in Thaxted are fundraising to help pay for the funeral of a "much loved" local man who died suddenly without the funds to pay for a private ceremony.

Brian Mays had lived in the village for more than 30 years and died on January 18 in Broomfield Hospital, aged 61. He had been battling cancer and developed pneumonia after having a fall the day before he died.

Thaxted resident Catherine Fox set up the fundraising page to fund a memorial for him to ensure he didn’t “go unrecognised”.

“I was horrified to learn of his situation and the fact he wouldn’t get a proper burial,” she said. “He was one of the first people I met in Thaxted – the first person to acknowledge us. We’d always see him and chat to him. We’d always call him ‘Scottish Brian’,” she said.

“I wanted to do this just so he didn’t go unrecognised. He was a very decent man and I couldn’t bear the idea the idea of him having a pauper’s burial. He ended up with nothing at the end of his life – it could be anybody and you could be in the same position. It’s wonderful to see how people collectively can be great and Thaxted is one of those places where people help out. The first person who donated £100 hadn’t even met him. It just takes somebody to set something up and then everyone steps up.

“It’s amazing that people have been so generous. But we can do more.”

The appeal for a memorial for Brian raised more than £1,000 in 24 hours, but Catherine would like to raise more funds for the funeral.

Wendy Rider, the daughter of Brian’s companion, was with Brian when he died and said everyone who knew him “loved him to bits”.

“One of my fondest memories is people saying ‘oh, you’re Brian’s daughter’,” Wendy said. “Even though he wasn’t my father, he was like a dad to me. He was a very special man.”

In August last year, Brian was rushed to hospital and was told he had cancer.

Wendy said: “I was the one he rang when he first got poorly – he said he wasn’t feeling very well. I went to see him and called the ambulance. By that evening, he had his colon removed – he had a tumour the size of a grapefruit. The cancer then spread to his lungs a couple of weeks later.”

Last month, Brian fell in the bath and his carers found him several hours later.

“I went to see him and he wasn’t right at all. They said he had a really bad chest infection and he was really dehydrated. They called the next day and said he had been moved to intensive care and told us to come in as soon as possible because he was really poorly. They said he was trying to die. He’d had enough; it was too much for him,” she said.

“He loved Thaxted. Once he moved there, he never wanted to leave. He lived there for at least 30 years. He always wanted to help – always happy to help people. His mum, Ellen Baker, was even mayor of Saffron Walden at one time.

“Everybody of his age knew him – everyone loved him to bits. They don’t make them like that anymore.

“He was self-employed as a bricklayer – he was doing well, but he got unwell and it all tumbled down. It could happen to anyone.

“I’m gobsmacked by the support for the fundraiser – there are people that don’t even know him that have sent him contributions. It’s had me in tears a couple of times. I want to say a massive ‘thank you’ as well to Broomfield Hospital for their care of Brian as they were wonderful.”

Wendy and Catherine want to raise enough money to hold a funeral.

“He was so well-loved and people deserve a chance to say goodbye to him properly,” Wendy said.

To donate, please visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/catherine-fox-1.

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