Gill Melrose's Memories
Below are extracts taken from a letter sent to Eden Valley Hospice by Gill Melrose, whose idea it was to create a hospice in the city.
In acknowledgement of Gill Melrose’s amazing work in establishing the hospice throughout the 1980’s we have dedicated a leaf on our Memory Tree as a permanent thank you.
In late 1984 I became very interested in the hospice movement and started looking into what was involved. In 1985 I lost a dear friend and Godmother to our son, Jean Spouge, from cervical cancer, she was just 38.
Sadly Jean died on her own in a 4 bedded ward at the City General and as a result of this, along with the many patients I had cared for over the year, I felt it was time something was done where terminally ill patients could die with dignity, respect and love all around them.
Firstly, I needed to look at the feasibility of the project in this area as some ten years before G.P. Dr Stewart Moffat had suggested such a project but it did not materialise, being aware of this I needed to be absolutely sure of my facts before approaching anyone in authority or setting the ball rolling.
On June 9 my trusty typewriter came into use yet again. Having been sent the full list of every G.P. in the North Cumbria Area Health Authority Area, I formulated and sent out a letter to each individual G.P. about my proposals with an opportunity for them to answer whether they would use such a facility or not, of the 80 letters sent I had 79 replies! Of those 79 replies they ALL agreed with the idea and many of them made very useful and valued comments.
Armed with this information I now needed to speak to someone in authority and that someone was Dr Peter Tiplady. I went to see him supplying him with all the facts, figures and G.P. feasibility results etc. to which he gave me the all clear in principle to the idea which meant I could at last go public and star putting out feelers etc. to raise money and engender interest, because at this point, I may have done all the work but I still did not know if my idea would take off or maybe I had become so totally committed to it and absolutely determined about the idea that I had become blinkered.
On the 24 September the first press announcement of the proposed hospice appeared in the Gazette in Carlisle.
Within days of this release there was knock on the door. A small bespectacled gentleman. He introduced himself as Mr Tom Crellin from Rotary Carlisle. He had seen the article in the paper and said he thought Rotary would be interested in getting involved. Well you can imagine my delight at the prospect of having such a prestigious organisation as Rotary involved. Mr Crellin suggested I meet Mr Peter Whitley the then chairman of their social committee for that year.
Mr Crellin duly set up a meeting with Mr Whitley at Carrs Biscuit Works on 28 October.
Following the article in the press I started to receive donations from members of the public, so I opened a Halifax Building Society Account in Tony Arnott and my names and would you believe it, the article appeared on 24th September and I deposited a £500 cheque in the account on 26th September and by the 7th October we had £650 in that account.
The first official meeting of the Steering Committee was held on Tuesday 13 January at Carrs Biscuit Works.
By this time my brain was racing ahead and I had absolutely no doubt that the hospice would be a reality, as such I had already decided that I wanted Martyn Lewis to launch the Carlisle & District Hospice Appeal and I wanted the Duchess of Kent to open the hospice – both of which happened. I event had the colour schemes of the wards etc. Worked out, soft blues and gentle welcoming colours. Each room to be personalised with beautiful bedding etc.
The launch date for the Appeal was set for the 1st April. I set too and wrote a leaflet for the Appeal so that the public could establish what we were about. Mr Whitley added the covenant form on the back of the leaflet.
Everything moved at an alarming rate and the enthusiasm from the public was quite amazing.
People stopped me in the street to give a £1 here and £5 there, they recognised me and called across the street to ask what the latest bank balance was, donation were sent to me through the post.
Similarly it was decided we needed to circulate collecting boxes and as we did not have any the Royal British Legion offered us their boxes until we had some of our own, we hurriedly stuck our logo on the outside of the boxes and the volunteers distributed them all over the place.
Then of the course the great great Cumbrian and Carlisle people got behind us and started organising events to raise money for the Appeal. I have washed more coffee cups than you will ever know and spoken to so many people about the hospice you cannot imagine. It was absolutely wonderful to see so many people supporting the Appeal. The idea of a hospice certainly captured their imagination.
So many event, so much money, from the small coffee mornings to the large corporate cheques, it was quite amazing and exhilarating, each and every event was so important as well as all the logistics of the project.
I always seemed to manage to persuade companies and individuals to offer their goods and services for nothing. From bread rolls, apples and even Carlisle Castle to Jack Jones the great architect who designed the building you all know and love for absolutely NOTHING following a cheeky phone call from me – c'est las vie.
The last event I attended was the House of Fraser Fashion Show at the Hilltop Hotel in October 1987, organised by Irene Mattinson. It was splendid event which raised a large amount of money.
With hindsight my decision to resign was probably the wrong decision, but at the time my only concern was the hospice, hence my silence for the past 16 years. It meant everything to me, it was my life. I never had any intention of working there but to support it and raise as much money as possible. I just wanted to paint the walls, make the curtains and be involved. Nothing has ever inspired me before or since with such intensity.
If enthusiasm, sheer commitment and dedication to a dream is a crime, then I am guilty on ALL counts.
The only thing that matter is that the hospice is a success and the need has been well established. It is now up to everyone to maintain this wonderful establishment and prove yet again that we must never let it fail but move onwards and upwards to maintain the excellence in care the determined staff and volunteers provide for patients and their relatives.