Opinion - Wigan folk show their generosity

Charles Graham
Charles Graham

ONCE again the Wigan public has demonstrated to the world just how generous it is to people in their direst hours of need.

The sudden death of former Warriors Academy player Luke Rhoden while on a stag party break in Ibiza came as a terrible shock.

It could be a long time before we get to the truth of what happened during the young man’s final hours: whether drugs played their part, whether natural causes were to blame or whether, as alleged by some witnesses, police brutality also figured.

In the end though it comes down to a family losing a 25-year-old son. He had not insured himself against death or illness and so his bereft dad was faced with an £8,000 bill in order to get Luke repatriated.

An appeal was made for help and, once again, local folk rose to the occasion magnificently.

By the time Josh Charnley was offering his shirt up for auction and a bucket collection was being made at the Warriors-Wolves match, the target had already been passed.

Although a smaller financial goal, the heart-warming response reminded me strongly of that incredible fund-raising effort for young Emma Hoolin a few years back who needed more than £200,000 to get her to America within 100 days for pioneering treatment for a particularly nasty type of cancer.

As many of you will know, the amount was raised in little more than 60 days and the therapy was a huge success.

Since then there have been stirring public responses to other children in medical straits, including Joining Jack, Joseph’s Goal and the Braiden Prescott appeal.

So it didn’t really come as a surprise when a new rallying call was made to help Luke’s devastated family.

It still makes you proud though, doesn’t it?

When the Rev Ian Paisley’s mug appeared on our telly at home when I was young, it was usually greeted with a chorus of groans and a quick dash to turn the volume down.

His foghorn obduracy in the face of calls for peace talks and concessions was wearing and depressing, even when the IRA was at its most violently active.

And as the first moves were made towards some form of Northern Irish conciliation, the Democratic Unionist figurehead appeared to be one of the biggest obstacles to progress.

But somewhere along the line he underwent a Road to Damascus moment and quite suddenly became one of the key people in making the Good Friday Agreement work.

It was much to the chagrin of certain of his followers that his stance softened (although it was of course aided by many Republican concessions). But I think the majority of us on either side of the Irish Sea are very glad that it did.

Politicians of many hues have spoken warmly about the man away from the cameras, even long before his conversion to the peace process. For instance the late Tony Benn always got on famously with “Dr No,” as his diaries reveal.

And latterly there were few images more abidingly uplifting than seeing Paisley and Sinn Fein leader Martin McGuinness, once the deadliest of enemies, not only working together but actually working as friends.

In a world currently so full of horrific attrition these pictures offered a rare but wonderful ray of hope.

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