Opponents of fracking have paid tribute to Deb Kay, a long-standing campaigner whose funeral was held this morning in Irlam, Salford.
She died, aged 55, on 19 June 2020 after a heart attack.
Friends and activists paid their respects by socially-distancing along the road to the suspended exploration site at Barton Moss, near her home.
This was where Deb Kay began campaigning against fracking in 2013, when IGas drilled for shale gas.
After work ended at Barton Moss in 2014, Deb Kay supported protection camps at Woolston, near Warrington and Upton in Cheshire, Borras near Wrexham, Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire, Horse Hill in Surrey and Preston New Road in Lancashire.
Close friend and fellow campaigner, Crissy, remembers her as “caring, principled, honest, loyal, kind, generous and funny and a unique and wonderful friend”.
“Debs supported the Barton Moss protection camp as a local. She was passionate about protecting the moss from the oil and gas industry. She was very angry about fracking and she remained on the campaign thereafter, turning out whenever and wherever her work and family commitments would allow.
“Debs always did what she thought was right. She would never be silent about something if she thought it was unjust or wrong.
“She always spoke out for the underdog. She welcomed new people to the camp and included everyone.”
Another campaigner, writing on social media, said:
“Big personality. Never afraid to speak her mind and go against the grain. A sad loss.”
At the Woolston camp, Deb Kay was described as:
“the full-time security officer, mess officer, top cook and bottle-washer, chief camp jester, fearless warrior and universally loved confidante and she was always the last one to bed, ensuring that everyone on camp was safe and well before she retired to bed herself.”
Another campaigner said:
“Just thinking about Deb’s rota at Woolston. She was a force to be reckoned with.”
Crissy said Deb Kay insisted that Woolston camp was cleaned after it closed:
“Debs was determined the work would be done and wouldn’t have it any other way. It was a huge job, but through her persistence the camp was cleaned and in the tradition of anti frackers, she ensured the land was left better and cleaner than we found it.”
Deb Kay was a small woman but was fearless in the face of people she perceived as her enemy. She was pictured outside Preston New Road standing in front of a row of police officers. Crissy said:
“She looked as if she was in charge.”
She is also remembered as a camp comedian. Crissy said:
“Debs was known as a great source of humour. She was famous for her antics and mischief, boosting the morale of those around her”.
Deb Kay lived in Irlam all her life. She worked with reception-age children as a lunchtime supervisor at Fiddlers Lane Primary School. A post on the school’s Facebook page said:
“Debbie was a close friend to so many and words cannot describe how much her loss will affect us all.
“She was an irreplaceable part of the lives of students and staff. Her love and passion for Fiddlers Lane and our community will never be forgotten.
“She touched everyone’s lives with her humour, warmth and enthusiasm. Our staff, governors and pupils send our deepest condolences to her family and friends.
“She has left such a massive hole in her community. Everyone loved her, everybody adored her.”
Deb Kay had a heart attack at the hospital bedside of her husband, Stephen, who was being treated for cancer. Although surgeons tried to save her life, she did not survive. Stephen died less than two days later. His funeral is also held today.
Sharon O’Dell a lifelong family friend and neighbour said :
“I have known Ste and Deb for about 40 years, mine and Steve’s family living over the road from each other and our parents being close friends. So, it’s only natural all the kids would be close, Steve’s sister being my best friend still to this day.
“It has been an honour being asked and trusted by the children to arrange for their final journey, and it was made so much easier because of the courageous way they have handled it. I just hope I have done them proud.
“I’m going to miss them both dearly xx.”
Deb Kay leaves a son and daughter, a grandson, her mother and father and an extended family of nephews and nieces.
A music video, published earlier this month about the anti-fracking movement, included a tribute to her.