Lord Ashcroft makes substantial donation to War Years Remembered
A British philanthropist has provided a huge boost to a £50,000 fundraising campaign to keep open a war museum in Co Antrim – because of his admiration for the bravery of a Northern Ireland war hero.
Lord Ashcroft has donated £5,000 to the ‘In the Footsteps of Heroes’ appeal for the War Years Remembered museum in Ballyclare, which is threatened with closure.
Earlier this month the Newtownabbey Times reported that the privately-run museum has lost almost all its funding for the last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and supporters are trying to raise £50,000 to keep it open.
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Lord Ashcroft said he had made his donation because of the huge help provided last year to him while researching a magazine article and producing a YouTube film on Lt Col Blair Mayne, DSO and three Bars, the Second World War hero.
Lord Ashcroft said: “War Years Remembered, along with its founder David McCallion and other supporters of the museum, could not have been more welcoming to me and my team last year when we were looking into Blair Mayne’s remarkable life and Army career.
“When I heard that the museum had hit hard times through no fault of its own, I wanted to do my bit to help out. I would encourage others who love military history and museums to make their own donation.
“Make no mistake, this is a deserving cause. It would be a tragedy if this museum was forced to close its doors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Once we emerge from our third and, hopefully, final lockdown, the museum’s income should return and it will be able to stand on its own two feet.”
War Years Remembered, a registered charity, was founded by Mr McCallion in 1994 to house a wonderful collection of wartime memorabilia going back more than a century.
It seeks to educate the public about Northern Ireland’s military and social history.
Among valuable items gifted to the museum are the former possessions of Robert Blair Mayne, from Newtownards, a founding father of the SAS. His letters, uniforms and other memorabilia were donated to the museum two years ago by the war hero’s family.
Mr McCallion said: “I am enormously grateful to Lord Ashcroft for his generosity in making this donation to our fundraising appeal. As someone who has championed bravery in so many ways over the past two decades, he clearly appreciates the value of our museum to the wider public.“
Lord Ashcroft is an international businessman, philanthropist, author and pollster who has built the world’s largest collection of VCs, which are housed at a gallery bearing his name at the Imperial War Museum in London.
He has also written six books on gallantry and lectures widely on the subject of courage.
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