Willie died in the plane crash known as the Munich Air Disaster that occurred on 6th February 1958 at Munich-Riem Airport, West Germany. British European Airways flight 609 tried to take off, the third attempt. Aboard were 44 people - the Manchester United football team known as the "Busby Babes", supporters and journalists.
Willie was a Jewish businessman and fanatical supporter of Manchester United - so fanatical that he was on the cusp of being a member of the board. He made a fortune in the cotton trade in and around the Manchester area. He knew Matt Busby so well that he travelled with him and the Manchester United team on all of their European exploits through 1956/57.
Sadly he perished in that terrible accident on a snowy afternoon on the runway of the airport in Munich. The “Busby Babe” footballers were quite famous but Willie wasn’t but I thought I’d call at the Jewish Cemetery on the outskirts of Manchester and find him anyway. I parked outside the cemetery on Barlow Moor Row and had a coffee from the flask. It was Sunday morning at about 11am. From my sitting position I could see it wasn’t a broad sprawling cemetery so I guessed I’d be perhaps thirty minutes walking up and down the headstones. However I entered the main gates, said hello to a few men inside suits and under scull caps and found the headstone within thirty seconds.
Willie has never ever been recognized in any way by Manchester United but I put a stone in his grave to let other know someone recognised him. I was going to put about thirty stones on so more people would look but thought better of it. He was much older than the football players who died that day – an ancient 47 years old.
Quite a few Jews entered the cemetery and seemed to know each other. I felt a little out of place and sat in the car and observed anyone entering the cemetery. Most were well dressed as though going to a wedding – even the boys were in suits. Nobody was as scruffily dressed as I was. They all seemed to acknowledge one another without knowing another. It must be quite warming to feel part of something but I’m not very familiar with that notion.
I saw these people pick up some stones from a bag…
…so I did too…