Belfast Telegraph

Best’s family divided over ‘macabre’ sale of NI flag

A storm has erupted over the attempted sale of the Northern Ireland flag that adorned soccer hero George Best’s coffin.

George’s sister, Barbara McNarry, described the decision by her brother Ian Best to sell the flag at Bonhams in England this week, as “macabre”.

Ian had originally tried to sell the flag last year but later withdrew the item.

The flag was included in Bonhams’ auction in Chester last June with an estimated price of £5,000 to £6,000. It went unsold.

Posting on the George Best Foundation Official Page before the sale, Mrs McNarry said: “It is with heartfelt and profound sadness to see that one of the Northern Ireland flags which was draped on George's coffin is to be sold at auction tomorrow (Wednesday).

“Despite our best concentrated efforts, we were unable to prevent this macabre event taking place. The flag should have continued to be part of George's enduring legacy and not put up for personal gain. Sorry George, we tried. Barbara.” The response from fans on the George Best Foundation Facebook page to buy the flag and return it to Barbara was described as “wonderful”, by a family friend.

One poster on the site, Alan Maguire, said: “There’s 22000 people on this page, why don’t we all put a few pound together and buy it back.” Another poster, David Bateman added: “Don't let a flag divide the family. Remember that George once sold off his trophies so let's not judge.”

The family friend said the efforts and comments by fans were “wonderful and very much appreciated”.

“It’s an awful shame this has happened but we hope that if someone does purchase the flag they give it a good home such as the George Best Foundation.”

Ian Best’s plans to sell the flag last year ended after an ownership dispute. He was unavailable for comment, but in an article in the Scottish Herald in February 2009, Mr Best, a courier based in Devon, said the flag was given to him by his father Dickie “and at no time did anyone ask for it back”.

“But now a gentleman has come forward saying that the flag belongs to him. I wanted to sell the flag for two reasons: firstly because of the insurance premiums on it and secondly because I would like to buy some of the things that actually belonged to George and meant something to him when he was alive. The flag, to me, isn't a reminder of him.”

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