Story 92

Charismatic and optimistic

After meeting and hearing Leonard Cheshire speak in Sydney in 1964, I arrived in India aged 25, and was met at Dehradun railway station by the man himself.

Anne Boyd with Leonard Cheshire

Leonard (then known as ‘The Group Captain’ or ‘GC’) had arranged a bicycle for me. Together we rode over to Raphael, to survey ‘the hospital’. Raphael was the first ever home set up jointly by Leonard with his wife Sue Ryder, and I was to be the first nurse. At this stage, the bricks were still being laid. I had a turret room in an old palace, which was the local Cheshire home. This is where Leonard himself had lived for a year prior to his marriage in 1959.

Leonard regretted only having time to visit Raphael for a week or so every year or two, but both the Founders were in constant contact by mail. During my first three years, Leonard and Sue together visited twice. On each occasion, I did my best to see that they had adequate meals, which was a little difficult as Sue hardly ate anything, and Leonard had Coeliac Disease requiring a strict gluten-free diet. He suffered stomach cramps and was often clutching a hot water bottle.

They were both very intelligent, with quick humour, and into practical jokes. A nurse I met in London told me that she’d nursed Leonard at Midhurst TB Sanatorium and remembered him for pranks like hiding the medicine trolley in a linen closet when staff’s backs were turned.

Leonard Cheshire was charismatic and optimistic — and full of compassion and love for India and Indian people, and Raphael. He had an incredible memory for everyone’s names and enough Hindi for a chat. With volunteers such as myself, he had the uncanny ability to tap into whatever talents we had and encourage us to use them. When I expressed a lack of confidence regarding the mobile TB work, his advice to me was ‘If you put your feet in, you can always get the rest of your body in’.

I shall always treasure their friendship over the years from India to England and Australia, where he stayed with us on three occasions. In 1980, my husband Phillip and I stayed a few days at Cavendish. We helped in the office, Phillip played tennis with Leonard and did not win, and we hired bicycles from the village and rode to Cambridge for an overnight. When we returned the bicycles, we found that Leonard had already paid for them.

They were both very intelligent, with quick humour, and into practical jokes.