Story 47

Great privilege

My first contact with Leonard Cheshire Disability was at age 15. In my last year at school I had the opportunity to volunteer at Marske Hall, a Leonard Cheshire home.

Irene Smith

I would go on a Saturday or Sunday and help prep the lunch, help in the dining room and spend time with the residents, sometimes going shopping into Marske with them.

I then went onto complete my nurse training and joined the team at Alne Hall in 1984, becoming the service manager in 1989.

The very first time I had contact with Leonard Cheshire I had not worked at Alne Hall long. I was working as a nurse when I took a phone call from him. I initially thought it was the other staff playing a trick on the new girl. Luckily when I answered the door to him I knew what he looked like as I had done a study on him at school.

When he came back to Bomber Command Reunions at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, he sometimes stayed in Alne Hall. We had a staff sick room on the first floor and he would sleep there. Vera who was cook then would prepare his breakfast. I still have a personal letter that he sent me, just thanking me for a visit.

Leonard’s link with the RAF has helped Alne Hall to maintain a strong link with RAF Linton-on-Ouse. On one of our anniversaries we were fortunate to have a Lancaster fly past. What an awesome event, hearing the engine before you saw the plane, then the fly past circling three times and the wing dip as they left.

When Leonard visited for trustee meetings, he would always take time to go around and speak with the residents and staff. He had a remarkable memory; when he went to talk to residents he could remember them and details about them.

I have always felt very honoured to have met Leonard Cheshire and to have worked with so many wonderful people at Alne Hall. The residents and people who use the services are all inspirational. They manage their lives with great dignity and cope with far more than I would ever wish to have to cope with in everyday life. It has been a great privilege to part of their and their families’ lives.

He had a remarkable memory; when he went to talk to residents he could remember them and details about them.