Brave Michael loses fight for life

Michael Fernay from Shevington with his wife Pauline
Michael Fernay from Shevington with his wife Pauline

A WIGAN man who fought “the bravest possible” battle to pursue an industrial illness landmark case has died.

Former plant fitter Michael Fernay, 65, developed terminal bone marrow disease four years ago which developed into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) which left him needing fortnightly blood transfusions and a regime of heavy medication to fight potential infection.

He believed it was caused by exposure to the known-carcinogenic chemical benzene while working at the now-defunct Appley Bridge-based British Glue and Chemical works off Mill Lane.

And last year he called in specialist lawyers Irwin Mitchell to launch a compensation battle which was one of the first of its kind in the country.

Today devastated family at his Inward Drive home in Shevington are awaiting the results of a post-mortem before they can arrange a funeral for the popular father-of-four.

Michael, who worked at Leyland Motors after leaving the glue factory in 1973, passed away surrounded by his family only a day after being able to cuddle his newly born seventh grandchild for the first time.

And his wife of 44 years Pauline - the couple met when they were both 15 years old and acted as his main carer - said today that the great family man had been “hanging on” for that very privilege.

Mr Fernay, born in Crooke Village, first noticed that something may be wrong eight year ago when he developed a rash on his arms and scalp which failed to respond to treatment.

His doctor advised him to have a blood test which revealed the early stages of myelofibrosis which two years ago developed into full blown AML.

Both conditions have been linked with exposure to benzene, which was known to be dangerous in the decade when he worked at the glue works. Mr Fernay worked in the former benzene plant there and recalled being asked to recycle pipe work from it for use in the factory elsewhere.

Many still contained benzene residue which spilt onto his hands and overalls.

He was concerned enough about the situation at the time to never bring his chemical-spattered dirty overalls into the family home. Pauline said: “He never once cried about the outcome or became upset and was so determined to soldier on with it. I think he had been holding on to see baby Theo and after he had held him, which was so important to him, he started going down.

“This is the grandchild that will carry the name on, which was important to him.”