Belfast Telegraph

Manchester United’s Big Lily blooms on Belfast peace wall

New Belfast mural hails celebrated football flag

Manchester United Big Lily mural on the walls of Northumberland Street at the gates between Divis Street and Shankill Road
Manchester United Big Lily mural on the walls of Northumberland Street at the gates between Divis Street and Shankill Road
United fan Keith Norris with former Red Devils star Cristiano Ronaldo
Big Lily in Malta
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

Manchester United's famous 'Big Lily' flag has been immortalised on a peace wall mural in west Belfast.

The giant flag, which adorns Old Trafford's Stretford End, has travelled the world since it was created in 1999 by best friends Keith Norris and the late Martin 'Faceman' Cleary from Whitehead - men from either side of the religious divide.

They named it to represent how both traditions here embrace the flower.

The flag will now be seen by many of Belfast's 9.5 million annual visitors as it takes pride of place on a new mural along Northumberland Street. Mr Norris described Big Lily's inclusion on Belfast's murals as a "historical moment" for all of those connected with the flag and said that it is dedicated to the memory of his friend Mr Cleary, who passed away in 2007.

"He would have been so proud, as I am, of this amazing tribute to Big Lily and the fact that we, in some small way, contributed to meaningful friendship across the divide in Northern Ireland and across the world," said the 52-year-old.

"To think of United's Big Lily on a wall dedicated to peace and a tourist attraction is truly amazing," he added.

Big Lily is also currently the subject of a year-long documentary entitled The Flag Of Friendship, and filming has already taken place in Belfast, Dublin, Manchester, Munich, Malta, Madrid, Perth, Kyoto and Houston.

The documentary tells the story of Big Lily's origins in the land of Manchester United legend George Best and the footballing friendships that have been built around the flag. Red Devils legends Cristiano Ronaldo and Gary Neville, ex-Real Madrid stalwart Raul and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will all contribute to the film, as will the mural.

"We have filmed amazing characters and events which portray the global passion for Manchester United in a unique manner," added Mr Norris

Commenting on Big Lily, former Northern Ireland and United goalkeeper Harry Gregg said: "Big Lily is about the ordinary people, the flag that they worship, what it represents, and I am very proud of Keith Norris.

"He has done exceptionally well and Big Lily has done even better."

As well as match days, Big Lily also makes appearances at many supporters clubs' events all over the world.

Manchester United's 60-year-old Malta Supporters Club invited Big Lily to lead their anniversary celebrations in June of this year.

Recently a Manchester United fans group in Texas held a function in which a Wee Lily flag signed by Eric Cantona and donated by Mr Norris raised funds for a children's cancer charity.

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