A grandmother who worked day and night to create a special quilt in memory of the 96 Liverpool FC fans who died in the Hillsborough disaster has described the moment a victim’s mother spotted her dead son’s name stitched onto her lovingly created design.
Linda Whitfield spent months gathering old football shirts, cutting out the Liver Birds and stitching them together, working around the clock to create the moving tribute.
The grandmother of three, who says she didn't know anyone who was at the match on the tragic day, said she was overwhelmed by the reaction to her design, which brought tears to the eyes of a mother who lost her son in the sporting tragedy.
“She just looked at it and started filling up,” said Linda, describing the moment Margaret Aspinall, chairwoman of the Hillsborough Family Support group, spotted her son James’ name stitched into the quilt.
“She said she wished she had known I was making the quilt as she would have given me one of his shirts to put the Liver Bird on it. I knew that was love.”
Linda, who lives in John Nicholas Crescent, Ellesmere Port, met members of the support group last week. They contacted her after spotting pictures of the quilt, made up of dozens of donated shirts, on Facebook.
The 57 year old, who has been greatly appreciative of the kind messages from people worldwide, said she now hopes her creation will be shared with the people of Liverpool and serve as a lasting tribute to the 96 – a view she says the families share.
Linda, who still has the quilt at home and will hand it over to the campaign group in the next few weeks, said: “I was one of the lucky ones, I didn't know anyone who died or who went to the football that day.
“She [Margaret] said it needs to be seen, no one person should own it. Maybe it will go into the Museum of Liverpool.
“I have been blown away by the remarks on Facebook, it just went mental. I just thought I had made a quilt, but it has touched so many people.”
Linda’s husband Rob, 49, an avid Liverpool FC supporter, first gave her the idea for the quilt when they were sat at home one day listening to the news and a bulletin about the inquest came on.
Linda explained: “He said ‘I have got a project for you’ and we talked about different ideas. The idea he came up with was 96 shirts with the Liver Birds cut out and the names of every person that died sewn in.”
Linda appealed for shirts on Facebook in April last year and said, although donations were initally slow, she was overwhelmed with the response from everyone from friends to total strangers.
The mother-of-two started cutting the shirts in September and spent every spare hour sewing up the patches to make the quilt – even taking them to the craft group in Stanney Lane and sewing through the New Year’s celebrations to get the design finished.
But Linda, who has also sewn the names of all those who donated their old shirts and their children’s shirts on to the back of the quilt, says she couldn't have finished the project without the help of Mark Bond, owner of The Uniform Shop in Whitby Road.
He made labels containing all the names for Linda’s project and gave them to her for free, despite banning her from the shop as Liverpool lost every time she came in.
Linda said many of the people who donated the shirts have come to see the quilt: “Without his help it wouldn't look half as good, but he wouldn't put his name on the back – I had to make him do it under duress.
“One lady brought her son to look at the quilt, he looked on the back and a big smile spread across his face. He was so amazed that his name was there.”
And Linda, whose second cousin is Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney, said her next project might just be a memorial to the Munich Air Disaster, but for now she is giving herself a bit of a break and making herself a vintage quilt.
The 1989 Hillsborough Disaster claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool FC fans.
Among those who died were three from Ellesmere Port – James Delaney, 19, James Hennessy, 29 and Christopher Edwards, 29.