THE PRINCE OF WALES HOSPICE
PART TWO - SUPPORT GROUPS
by OLIVER WALKER
of Wales Visit in October 1985
This is the second part of the story of the history The Prince of Wales Hospice.
This article covers the story behind the support groups which were set
up in 1983 to raise funding for the construction of the hospice.
There were originally thirteen support groups in the local area. These groups were
based in Castleford, Knottingley, Hemsworth, Normanton, Featherstone,
Ferrybridge, South Elmsall, Ackworth, Upton and South Milford, with
three support groups in Pontefract itself.
The aims of the support groups were to raise new income for the hospice, to advocate
for the work of the hospice and to encourage others to raise funds. Each
support group was made up of people from the particular area who had
joined together with these common aims.
The groups acted independently of each other, although representatives from each
group met monthly at Pontefract Hospital to discuss groups’ activities
in the past month, future plans and any problems that had been
Events organised by the groups to raise funds included dancing, concerts, fun
runs and a car boot sale in Tesco’s car park!
It had been identified that The Five Towns Plus Hospice Fund would have to raise
£500,000 to open the hospice and pay for initial running costs. In
order to help reach this target, it was decided there should be a large
event, a half-marathon at Pontefract Park in May 1985. In addition to
the run, each support group had a stall at the event with a variety of
second-hand goods, homemade items and baking donated for sale to raise
The run organisers invited national celebrity and keen runner, Sir Jimmy Saville,
to take part in the event, as he had been a Bevan boy in the area. He
readily accepted and the event proved to be highly successful.
After participating in the half marathon, Jimmy telephoned the Support Group
Co-ordinator, Gretta Sharkey, and announced that he had organised
someone very important to help the hospice with their fundraising and
that this special person wanted to meet the support groups. This
mysterious person was, of course, The Prince of Wales. However, because
of security issues, his identity had to be kept a secret, even to the
support groups, until he actually arrived!
The Prince made his visit in October 1985, met with each support group and agreed
to help them in their goal to raise the capital they needed. This
included hosting a charity polo match for the hospice every year.
The half-marathon event and the success of the clothing stalls also offered
another opportunity to the hospice – to have a regular market stall.
The first "Buttercross New-to-You" sale took place in November
1986 and continued on the last Friday of every month.
'New to You' stall in Pontefract Buttercross
proved to be very popular and encouraged more members of the general
public to become supporters of the hospice. The stall ran until May 1989
and raised a total of £20,000 towards the building costs. Today, the
sales continue at the hospice’s shops that can be found in the
In the meantime, the support groups also hosted another event, which was to
become something of a tradition. The first fundraising garden party was
hosted by supporter John Holmes, and though the venue later moved to the
hospice grounds, the garden party continues to be an important
fundraiser for the hospice today, eighteen years later.
Party July 1988
One of the
support groups’ biggest contributions was to pay the salary and
expenses of the Hospice Fund Sister, Lesley Etherington. Along with her
husband Peter, Lesley had been a founder member of the Knottingley
Support Group. She was appointed to her official post in April 1985.
Lesley’s role involved promoting further fund-raising and directly caring for
people with terminal illnesses in the local area, fulfilling the hospice’s
objective while fundraising continued and building work began, starting
with the cutting of the sod in 1988.
the first sod in 1988
It was because of the tireless work of the support groups that the dream of the
hospice became a reality. This contribution was recognised when the new
hospice was opened by naming a room after each of the support groups.
Written and compiled by Oliver Walker
With contributions from Laura Bennett, Phyl Hague and Gretta Sharkey.
articles about the Pontefract Hospice by Oliver Walker
of Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part One - Laying the Foundations
Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part Three - Moments in History
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract
Part Four - Flower Funds and Gardens