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Plumber who took quiet approach

STEPHEN MAJOR, the man who ended the 148-year history of Bradford & Bingley as a building society, said he was returning to obscurity yesterday after a four-month spell as a minor celebrity, writes Andrew Verity.

Mr Major, a modest maintenance plumber who works in his home town of Lisburn, County Antrim, attributed his victory to a low-profile campaign.

In contrast to Michael Hardern, the flamboyant ex-butler who last year failed to force Nationwide to become a bank, Mr Major decided not to run for election to the board of directors.

Instead, Mr Major quietly collected the 50 supporting signatures from qualifying members he needed to table his resolution. With the help of national newspapers, he had enough signatures by December. He then stepped up his account balance to more than pounds 10,000 and began speaking to the press.

Yesterday he said he was heading straight back to Northern Ireland on the ferry. "I might celebrate with a glass of Guinness. I think the Bradford & Bingley have been very fair throughout the process; they are now biting the bullet and I am going to return to my life as a 9-5 plumber.

"I'm not opposed to building societies at all. I think they are an important asset to the housing market and they have a great future," he said. Asked where he would go for his own mortgage, he replied: "Probably a building society."