Fundraisers get needle in memory of Michael

Jen Sweeney, the mother of Blyth soldier Michael Sweeney who was killed in Afghanistan last year is raising money for the Army Benevolent Fund with different events starting this month, one of which is where 50 people will get a tattoo in Michael's memory. Tattoo artists Danny Kerry owner of Top Gun Tattoos in Blyth and Lee Short (right) will be doing the work with Sean Sweeney (front) who works as an apprentice there.

Jen Sweeney, the mother of Blyth soldier Michael Sweeney who was killed in Afghanistan last year is raising money for the Army Benevolent Fund with different events starting this month, one of which is where 50 people will get a tattoo in Michael's memory. Tattoo artists Danny Kerry owner of Top Gun Tattoos in Blyth and Lee Short (right) will be doing the work with Sean Sweeney (front) who works as an apprentice there.

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fundraisers are set to get the needle in memory of Michael Sweeney, the Blyth soldier killed in Afghanistan almost a year ago.

The Saturday after next will see 50 people converge on Top Gun Tattoos in Bowes Street in Blyth to get a design of a dove inside a star inked on their bodies.

Family friend Danny Kerry and fellow tattooist Lee Short will be helped on the day by Michael’s brother Sean, 19, and his mum Kim.

Michael’s family raised £12,000 for the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) in his memory last year, and they are hoping to top that figure this year by holding a series of events over the coming weeks.

Kim said Danny had jumped at the chance to design a tattoo for the charity when she first suggested it shortly after Michael’s death last April.

She said: “I wanted to have something that both men and women could have, which symbolises what the British army are trying to do in Afghanistan – peace – but a plain dove wasn’t as nice, and we wanted something else with it.

“Danny is into negative stars, and I thought it would be nice because when somebody dies, a lot of people think there is a new star in the sky, so it’s to represent loved ones we have lost.

She added: “We did a test to work out how long each tattoo would take.

“Danny took 13 minutes from firing up his gun to putting it back down again, so we have allocated 13 minutes per tattoo as it may take Lee a little bit longer.”

The pair will tattoo from 9.20am until 8pm, taking a ten-minute break every four hours and a half-hour for lunch.

Kim said: “There are so many soldiers being killed now, but we don’t hear about all those who come back wounded.

“The ABF is all about these individuals and their families.

“It’s something that is very close to my heart because had Michael survived, he would have been an amputee, and I would like to think there would have been somebody there for him.”

Kim said she and her family had been overwhelmed by the support they are being given by the people of south east Northumberland.

Four members of one family had signed up to have the tattoos, she said, adding: “They all wanted to support the soldiers.

“Some of them knew Michae,l and there are a lot of friends of friends and relatives.

“Danny would love to tour the country and do this tattoo.

“He is trying to copyright it, and it would be lovely if the ABF would adopt it as their tattoo.”

So far, 47 people have booked to have tattoos done, leaving only three slots.

Danny is doing the 50 tattoos at £15 each, covering the cost of ink and needles out of his own pocket.

Everyone getting a tattoo will also be asked to collect money for the charity.

To sign up, contact the studio on (01670) 458 077.

Further fundraising tattoos will be on offer at full price after the studio’s marathon session on March 19.

Michael, 19, a tattoo enthusiast himself, was killed by a bomb blast while serving with the Coldstream Guards in Helmand Province.