Story 20

A real education

When I was a teenager I was a Sea Ranger, a senior section of the Girl Guides. It was through our skipper Rosamund O’Brien that I first came to know about Leonard Cheshire.

Sue Hempstead by the Le Court information board

Rosamund was quite a character, and when she was asked in 1948 if her crew could help out at Le Court, the first Cheshire service, she thought it was a ‘good community project to do!’

And that’s how I and the rest of the crew came to be scrubbing floors, cleaning windows and doing whatever else needed doing to make the place habitable.

Once Le Court was up and running I started volunteering every Friday evening after school. Friday evening was cook’s night off, so I did the cooking with whatever food there happened to be. Often there wouldn’t be much. I remember one evening I was worried no one would have anything to eat the next day, so I went and spoke to Leonard. He said: ‘don’t worry, something will show up.’ And, of course, it always did! He always had such great faith that all would be well.

I stayed volunteering there for at least four years until I got married. I would play cards, talk with people and do what I could to help. I have many snippets of memories from my times there. I remember Arthur Dykes, the first ever resident, eating toothpaste, and thinking how strange! I remember one foggy, dark Friday night falling into a ditch on my way home, and laughing before picking myself back up to catch the last bus.

One of the residents I remember well was Stan. I used to speak to him a lot. One week I arrived and asked where he was, only to be told he had died. I hadn’t really thought about death before and it made quite an impression on me. My time at Le Court was a real education in life and death.

And of course I remember Leonard. He was quite quiet in his manner. But he was a special person, he had a real presence. He started in such a small way but the work has grown so much and had a tremendous impact.

He was quite quiet in his manner. But he was a special person, he had a real presence.