Belfast Telegraph

Community rallies to help arson victim rebuild his life

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

A man whose home was destroyed in an arson attack has been “overwhelmed” by the generosity of the community.

Brian McArthur (63) miraculously escaped injury after an oil tank was set on fire at his house in the Ballybeen estate, Dundonald.

However, the ex-factory worker said his faith in humanity had been restored after his neighbours launched a Facebook appeal to help him rebuild his life.

“People have been offering me this and that from all over the country — and I think someone from Canada has even been in contact through the Facebook page,” he said.

Brian — who has travelled the world with the Merchant Navy — has lived in the loyalist Ballybeen estate for more than 15 years but claimed he was the victim of an ongoing campaign of intimidation because he lived alone.

Yesterday, dozens of neighbours rallied round to organise a massive clean-up to remove the debris from his back yard.

“Most of these people I do not even know,” he said. “It just shows that people are not all bad. I was down in the dumps at the weekend when it happened but all these people have helped restore my faith in humanity.

“There are all these young people helping. It was probably young ones that did this — but it is nice to see that there are good ones too. I would never have been able to get this done on my own.”

Brian who struggled to pay off his mortgage and now lives on £73-a-week, was unable to afford house insurance because of a rise in premiums after a spate of attacks on his home.

He had feared he would have to move elsewhere but has now changed his mind.

“I will not be moving,” he said. “People in the area are disgusted by the attack. It is giving the area a bad name and this is a good area — the people are so friendly.

“I am going to have to find money for the insurance again. With my windows being broken so many times my premiums were that high I couldn’t afford them.

“But, I am going to have to find the cash.’’

Among those who spearheaded the Facebook appeal is Ballybeen resident Neil Kennedy — who had been intimidated out of an estate in Bangor 10 years ago.

The site has been inundated with offers of help including everything from skips or manual labour to financial assistance.

Neil said: “This is a community-led thing. I read about this 63-year-old man who lived alone and who had been the victim of outrageous and obnoxious anti-social behaviour.

“I live nearby and just thought it would be the neighbourly thing to do to go and see if he needed any help. I thought I could just get in some shopping for him.

“We want to turn this negative behaviour into something positive and reflect the true spirit of Ballybeen. There has been an incredible response,” he said.

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