After raising an incredible £110,105, the other impressive thing that Operation Promotion has achieved is a sense of unity amongst the Grimsby fans – and the wider residents. Everyone’s together. It’s nice. It’s the kind of thing that makes you feel proud to be from the town.
After making my donation I began wondering, like a lot of other fans, what more I could do to keep that positivity flowing. This campaign has been about Grimsby, and allegiance, and unity, and camaraderie. And also about pride. We’ve got a lot to be proud of, you know.
Someone who’s proud to come from the town is the BBC’s Keeley Donovan. After all, her father and grandfather both played for the Mariners – and she presented the weather that time while wearing her Town scarf (which scored some serious brownie points), so her association with the town runs deep.
Handily, she also works in the same city as me, so as two exiled Grimbarians – or should that be Meggies – we were able to catch up and talk about why we love our home town.
I followed strict conversation protocol and began by talking about football. When we met, Operation promotion had just ticked past an impressive £65,000 and the £100,000 target was becoming a real possibility.
“It’s incredible how much the fans have raised,” says Keeley. “But in many ways I’m not surprised. I’ve always had the impression that the people of Grimsby will always come together to help out for things like this.
“They’re very passionate. Funnily enough, you can see it more clearly when you don’t live there. Having moved away I can look back and see that community spirit in action.”
Football in the Donovan family
Keeley is the daughter of former Town striker Terry Donovan, who began his career with Grimsby and went on to sign for Aston Villa for £72,000 in 1979 after three highly productive seasons with the Mariners. While at Villa Park he scored two goals in the early rounds of the 1981/82 European Cup, which Villa went on to win.
She’s also the granddaughter of Don Donovan, who joined the Mariners from Everton in 1958 for £8,000. Described as a cultured defender by many who watched him, he remained at the club for seven years until his retirement in 1965 before he went on to manage Boston, guiding them to three championships in four years.
Both Terry and Don represented the Republic of Ireland at international level, so there’s strong football pedigree running through her family – but it’s now with her cousins.
“My granddad, Don, had three girls and a boy – Terry, my dad – and then my dad had two girls,” says Keeley. “We weren’t actually interested in football when we were growing up. My uncle and dad used to take me and my sister to the odd match, but we were more interested in dancing and performing, and things like that.
“So actually the football gene is the other side of the family. Of my five cousins, four are boys – Elliott referees part-time and Lawrence (Heward) coaches the youngsters at the club.
“From the few occasions we did go to matches, I found Blundell Park to be one of the coldest places on earth! But because of my family history, the place means a lot to me – and always will do.
“My parents still live in Grimsby. They had their wedding reception at the Blundell Park Hotel across the road. I drive past the ground each time I go back because it’s on my route, so seeing it is like a sign that I’m home.”
The GTFC scarf
Grimsby doesn’t often get the coverage or attention it deserves, so when someone’s willing to go on live telly with a Grimsby scarf draped around her neck, in a show of allegiance, it’s going to go down well with the fans.
“I’d describe myself as a supporter from afar,” she says, “simply because I don’t get to many matches. But I like to lend my support where I can – so that’s why I wanted to wear the scarf on TV when they went to Wembley the other year.
“And when they made the play-off final a few months ago I tweeted a pic of myself with the scarf while I was on holiday in Bali.
“I’m proud to come from Grimsby so I’ll always want to do things like that, where I can.”
Grimsby… or Cleethorpes?
Like a lot of people who say they’re from Grimsby (your author included), Keeley’s actually from Cleethorpes. She’s a Croft Baker baby, although she did most of her growing up in Tetney and went to school in Humberston.
“I don’t know why I say I’m from Grimsby,” she says. “I guess it’s because it’s the largest town in the area, and it sort of encompasses all the other small towns.”
I have my own theory on this. As an exiled Mariner (or Meggie) I’ve found that fewer people know about Cleethorpes, but more have heard of Grimsby – even if they don’t know where it is (or worse – they think it’s in Yorkshire). And it’s possibly down to the football club.
Let’s face it – very few of us have been to Yeovil; even fewer know where it is – but we know it exists. Football taught us that.
The beginnings of her career
Keeley’s been at the BBC for 10 years and spent the last seven presenting the weather on Look North – and, more recently, the news. She’s been living and working in Leeds for the last eight years.
However, she learnt her trade in Grimsby – first through a media course at Franklin College and then later a post-graduate diploma in broadcast journalism at the Grimsby Institute. But she began presenting before all that when she was just 14 years old, on what was Channel 7 – now Estuary TV – just after it had launched.
“It was a GCSE revision programme, which I really enjoyed,” she recalls. “It was a good opportunity. After that I worked on a freelance basis presenting other programmes, so it’s something I’ve been used to from a young age.”
I can relate to the pressures of presenting, in the most tenuous sort of way, from when I used to present Mariners Player 12 years ago. Unlike Keeley I had no ambitions of presenting – I just wanted to help out. So with a camera in my face, no experience of presenting and absolutely no script, I bumbled my way through a year of interviewing players, managers and fans.
Despite an audience of about five, I often wilted. I’m just hoping no one kept the vast number of outtakes, and no one remembers my edginess and hesitation. Or haircut.
Presenting on live TV
“I don’t find presenting the weather particularly nervy,” she explains. “I’ve been doing it for a good while anyway. You have a rough plan, and you know what you want to say, but you don’t have an autocue or anything. There are some stock phrases you can go back to if you have a blank moment, but generally things flow pretty well.
“I was nervous the first few times I read the news. It’s completely different with an autocue, but being in front of camera isn’t an issue. I guess the only thing I’m weary of is an unusual name. You have a pronunciation unit at the BBC so you’ll know the right way to say it – the difficulty is remembering how to say it when the time comes!
“But there’s something nice about being able to broadcast to my home area, knowing my family and friends are watching. I think people from Grimsby like to see others from the town doing well. They’re always very supportive.
“I do miss the town – massively. If I could do the work I do now, but back in Grimsby, then I’d move back. I still have a lot of friends and family there. But I do enjoy living in Leeds. There’s lots going on here too.”
Keeley has just finished filming a new series on BBC1 called Break-in Britain, which will air nationwide in September, so Grimsby (or Cleethorpes) folk will be able to see one of their own on national telly, flying the flag for the town(s)!