Dec 13 2012 by John Rowbotham, Hamilton Advertiser
A senior Lanarkshire clergyman this week questioned the motives of the distributors of Buckfast - after they made a large charitable donation to a cancer charity operating in the county.
J Chandler & Co (Buckfast) handed over a cheque for £25,000 to Macmillan Cancer Support at Udston Hospital, Hamilton. Macmillan said the money would provide much-needed financial support for Lanarkshire cancer patients. It would fund grants to cancer patients to pay for travel to and from hospital for treatment, heating bills, washing machines and other household items.
Rev. David Burt, minister of Hillhouse Parish and Moderator of Hamilton Presbytery, said he could understand why – in tough economic times – the charity accepted the money. He insisted the donation made him feel “uneasy” and added: “If the company are trying to absolve their conscience, then this doesn’t do it.
“The damage their product does, particularly in this area, far outweighs any donation they can make to charity.”
Buckfast, made by Benedictine monks in Devon and distributed in Scotland by Chandlers, has long been linked to antisocial behaviour and violence in Lanarkshire. There have been calls for the sales of the drink – with its high alcohol and caffeine content – to be banned, and in 2006 the then Health Minister Andy Kerr described it as an “irresponsible drink in its own right.”
A BBC probe found that Buckfast had been mentioned in 5638 Strathclyde crime reports between 2006 and 2009.
Rev Burt added: “I see the damage and social problems Buckfast causes in Hillhouse. A lot of their product, probably a disproportionate amount, is sold here, and if the distributors are saying it doesn’t contribute to problems here then they are fooling themselves.”
However, Stewart Wilson sales manager for Chandler’s said their motivation was to support the “fantastic” work of Macmillan and help people suffering from terminal illness.
He added: “When we decided to make the donation, the initial contact I had was with Macmillan Cancer Support UK and they put me in touch with the Scottish Division.
“We don’t advertise or promote our brand and nine times out of 10, when we give to charity, we don’t publicise it. In this instance, it was Macmillan who compiled the press release on the donation and we were happy to go along with it.”
Angela McCormack, fundraising manager for Macmillan, said the company deserved some good publicity for their donation.
“I was keen to keep the money in Lanarkshire,” she added.
“Cancer affects everyone and we (award) grants in Lanarkshire totalling £500,000 and as an area we don’t raise as much money as we spend.
“A donation of that amount will make a huge amount of difference.”
She added: “The company get their share of bad press but they should get some good press for this donation and the money that they give to other charities.”
Ms McCormack said they would accept cash from cigarette companies or firms whose product had a proven link to cancer.