Story 30

Showing what we stand for

The first time I met Leonard Cheshire, I was about 18 years old living at Oxfordshire Cheshire Home in Banbury in the 1970s. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times.

Dick Harris

When he visited, he didn’t want to be the centre of attention and he didn’t want much fuss. Leonard Cheshire was interested in talking to people. He had time for everyone – residents and staff. I think he had a very calming influence when he spoke to people. He was friendly and he put people at ease.

I remember small details too. If you were a wheelchair user back then, a lot of people would talk to you from a completely different height for the whole time — either standing up or crouching a bit. Leonard Cheshire preferred to be on the same level as you: he just pulled up a chair, sat alongside you and had a chat.

I spent nine years at the home from 1970-79. I shared a room with three other men; one was in his late 60s or 70s. Now people have their own rooms and things have moved on a bit! During this time I went to college and I distinctly remember scoring a hat-trick against Colchester United FC. We were playing wheelchair football against a non-disabled professional football team. I scored all the goals in a 3-3 draw.

In 1979 I moved out into a house with other disabled people. I spent my entire food budget for the week on the first night in the pub! Later that year, while on holiday, I met my wife — Angi — who was a support worker for a friend. We got married in 1981 and moved into a flat. We’ve now been married for 35 years. Our son and our daughter visit often, and we enjoy seeing our two year-old grandson.

Throughout my career I had always kept links with Leonard Cheshire Disability and in 2005 I was headhunted to re-join the organisation as an independent living advisor. I helped 13 people to move out into the community. I then held a customer support role, speaking to people in our services and gathering their views. Now I’m in fundraising and I’m currently working on the Leonard Cheshire centenary. I hope I can always help show what we stand for and what we do.

I hope I can always help show what we stand for and what we do.