Launching our new series with perhaps City's most famous supporter of all-time...
#1 Helen Turner AKA ‘Helen the Bell’
Who: Helen Turner was a City fan who also sold flowers outside the Manchester Royal Infirmary during the week. She was a larger than life character who rang a large brass bell during games when she thought the crowd needed to get behind the team.
You couldn’t miss Helen the Bell.
To say she is City’s most famous supporter is something of an understatement. On match-days, she was a constant presence and with her big blonde beehive, City scarf and bell, you literally couldn’t miss her.
Helen would sit behind the goal on the first row of the North Stand and it became her custom to hand a sprig of lucky heather to the City goalkeeper before each game. This became a huge part of Joe Corrigan’s pre-match routine for more than a decade.
No matter what the weather, Helen would be there and several times during the game, she would ring her bell and when she didn’t, the Kippax would demand “Helen, Helen, ring your bell! Helen, ring your bell!” Of course, she would respond, and the terraces would cheer followed by a chant of “Come on, City!” or similar.
The North Stand roof ensured that anyone sat in the first dozen rows was susceptible to the elements. This is Manchester… Helen often got soaked in the line of duty.
In time, the Club recognised her commitment and place in the hearts of the players and fellow supporters and issues her with two free season tickets each campaign as a reward.
One of Helen’s most treasured moments was when she was invited to join the City players on a lap of honour at Wembley after winning the League Cup against Newcastle. The clip below shows the game, and on 9 minutes and 40 seconds, Helen appears, holding the trophy with Asa Hartford as the City fans celebrate in the background.
Helen wouldn’t stand any nonsense and woe betide anyone who swore in her presence! And on away trips, it’s fair to say that if you were on the coach Helen was travelling in, you’d better keep in line or face the consequences!
A tireless fundraiser for various charities, by the mid-1980s, Helen was suffering badly with arthritis and had to attend games in a wheelchair, but it didn’t stop her attending every game she could and, of course, ringing her bell. It was unique to City and visiting fans of that era all recognised as part of the Maine Road match-day experience.
City DNA: Introduction
In 2003, just before City left Maine Road for good, Helen was given a standing ovation by those attending the final game at our old Moss Side home against Southampton. It was the last time Maine Road heard those chimes. Just two years later, aged 85, Helen passed away.
A one-minute silence was observed at the Blues’ next home match against Chelsea.
She would have relished the last decade and all the trophies that have come with it and the football that has been played under Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and especially Pep Guardiola.
The next time you hear her bell ringing at a game, think of Helen and her dedication to Manchester City and her place in our history. She may be gone, but her legacy lives on.
Helen bequeathed her bell to the Club and it is still occasionally lent out and rung by supporters at big games.