Friends and family of one of Brighton & Hove Albion’s most dedicated fans, Mary Emery, gathered at the Amex Stadium on Wednesday (August 1) to share their memories and to ride the Brighton & Hove bus named in her honour.
Hove resident Mary, followed the club through thick and thin for 89 years and helped lead the charge for a new stadium at Falmer. Sadly, she passed away, aged 93, in February this year.
Club historian Tim Carder said the word ‘feisty’ instantly came to mind in connection with his friend. One of his fondest memories is of Mary, then 75, dancing jubilantly in the street after Brighton & Hove Albion beat Aldershot 6-2 in the 2000 FA Cup final.
“Mary was so pleased, she was dancing around in the streets of Aldershot, which was not the thing to be doing, to be honest. Liz (from the supporters’ club) told a policeman to go and arrest her in order to get her back on the coach and leave! The policeman arrested her in a friendly sort of way.”
Albion diehard fan, Chris Fossey said Mary was ‘a great character’ who wasn’t afraid to take on powerful people. “Back in the dark days of the club, we used to sit on one side of the gangway with Liz and my dad and Mary would sit on the other side (at Goldstone Ground). When the directors came into the box she would get up on her feet and shake her fist at them.
“That sums up the passion that she had for the club. She hated those people in the directors’ box for what they were doing to the club.”
Mary was there too, in 2011, when Albion finally got their own home ground after 14 years at Gillingham and Withdean. Brighton and Hove Albion won their first game 2-1 against Doncaster at the new Amex stadium and Mary was in her element.
“We won in the eighth minute of injury time. It was almost like a miracle,” Chris said. “She loved it here and she thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great that she was able to see that. She had campaigned so much to achieve it.”
Interestingly, Brighton’s last game at the Goldstone Ground on April 26, 1997, was also against Doncaster. Albion won 1-0, drawing 1-1 the next weekend at Hereford to rescue them from relegation.
Brighton and Hove Buses’ Managing Director Martin Harris paid tribute to Mary. “Her commitment was never in doubt. She really shone through when the club was going through its dark days.”
The interior of the Mary Emery bus will later be decorated to tell Mary’s story as a football fan and community campaigner.
“We are not in Mary’s story. All we can do is to keep her story going and to share it with more people,” Martin said.
Mary’s son, Robert Emery said: “Buses were part of her life. (Naming the bus after her) is a really nice gesture.”
The club’s Executive Director, Martin Perry, said Mary and her husband Ted were two of the first Albion supporters he ever really got to know.
“I have such wonderful memories of them. They used to sit at the top of a rickety staircase in Gillingham, near the directors’ lounge. The first two to come up were always Mary and Ted. They always had a friendly word for me and a smile.
“It’s going to be brilliant seeing this bus going around the city.”
Find out more: www.buses.co.uk