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Widow blasts plans to take away bikers' memorial to Gareth Anderson

By Claire McNeilly

Published 31/07/2015

Gareth Anderson memorial that may have to be removed
Gareth Anderson memorial that may have to be removed
Julie Anderson with her late husband Gareth

A widow has hit out after being asked to remove a roadside memorial to her late biker husband.

Gareth Anderson, who was in his mid-thirties, was killed instantly when his motorcycle collided with an oncoming car on the Portaferry Road on June 3 last year.

His motorcycle club - Strand Bikers MCC - erected a headstone in his memory following his death.

But now the Woodland Trust is demanding that it be removed amid claims it could pose a danger to other road users.

The victim's heartbroken wife Julie has said their children Jemma and Jack are "devastated all over again" because of calls for the memorial to be taken away.

"My kids are in bits here," Mrs Anderson wrote on Facebook.

Scores of people have expressed their disgust on the social media site at the Woodland Trust's intervention over a year after Gareth lost his life.

Stephen Watson posted: "What harm was it doing?", while Mark Anderson said: "This is an absolute disgrace."

Similarly, Charlie Mawhinney said: "There is no compassion left in this country", and Paddy McGlinchey posted: "It's not only a mark of respect but a reminder to others of what can happen so tragically."

Leo Leathem, chairman of Strand Bikers MCC, told the Belfast Telegraph that the memorial served as a place for people to stop and remember Portaferry man Gareth.

"It's an 18-inch memorial stone at the side of the road which has been there for a year," he said. "We got it made and put it there last July and now, out of the blue, the Woodland Trust has told us it has to go.

"A couple of our guys actually cleaned up the area before we put up the memorial because it was waste ground with empty bottles and other rubbish lying around.

"We didn't realise that it belonged to the Woodland Trust until they approached us recently."

Mr Leathem added: "The memorial we have there isn't doing any harm. We really can't understand this."

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust, said he wished to offer his sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Anderson.

"The trust is a conservation charity dedicated to the preservation and creation of native woodland for the benefit of both people and wildlife," he said. "We rely upon the generosity of our members and supporters to make our conservation work possible. This means that we must manage our woods in a certain way and we really can't allow individuals to erect personal memorials, no matter how meaningful they undoubtedly are to those concerned."

Mr Cregg said his organisation was not notified of any proposed memorial for that site.

"The land on which this memorial was installed is private and we are disappointed that nobody from the Strand Bikers MCC contacted us to seek our permission," he said. "After contacting Strand Bikers to ask that the memorial stone would be removed, we were advised of plans for a forthcoming service.

"We appreciated the significance of the service and agreed that the tribute could stay in place until that time, with the understanding that it would be removed - and hopefully placed at an alternative and suitable location - at a later date."

Mr Cregg said the trust had been given an assurance from the bikers club that the memorial would be moved elsewhere.

He added: "We in turn offered an opportunity to dedicate some trees in the wood to honour the memory of Mr Anderson."

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