THE PRINCE OF WALES HOSPICE
PART THREE - MOMENTS IN HISTORY
One of the most memorable moments in fundraising for the hospice took place
on 15th May 1983 when a half marathon was organised in Pontefract Park.
At that time, the hospice was still six years away from being built and was
desperately in need of funds to help get the project off the ground. In
October 1982, inspired by the inaugural London Marathon and the rising
fitness craze, Graham Townend of the Yorkshire Evening Post approached
Roger Norton, a former Oxford University Athletics Blue, and suggested
that the Five Towns Hospice Fund organise their own marathon as a means
to raise funds.
Roger, as race co-ordinator, was aided by Chairman John Hanson, Secretary
Gordon Tollefson, future chairman David Ashton, future Vice Chairman
Mary Berwick, Fund Treasurer Sheila Davis and Support Group Liaison
Officer Greta Sharkey. They met together and a plan was formulated. It
was decided that a half marathon would take place in May of the
following year and the venue would be Pontefract Park. However, several
obstacles had to be overcome before the event could take place.
In order to comply with stringent Athletics Association rules,
consultations with Wakefield Council, the police, ambulance, racecourse
and railway officials were required so that the appropriate permits
could be obtained. The running of the event required the help of over
100 supporters including pupils of local schools, Girl Guides and
Yorkshire Lions as well as the support groups and their friends and
family. As well as the race itself, the event also included various
stalls that were staffed by members of the Five Towns Hospice Fund to
encourage non-runners to donate money.
In total, 1,158 people, including several Olympians, ran the 13½ mile
route around Glasshoughton, Cutsyke, Whitwood, Normanton, Ackton,
Featherstone, Purston and Ackworth. The most famous entrant was local
television personality Jimmy Saville. Saville, then in his late 50’s,
had declined invitations to participate in similar events in other areas
of the country, but decided differently when he was asked if he would
like to participate in the hospice half-marathon because he had been a
pit ‘Bevan Boy’ in South Kirkby and felt an attachment to the
By taking part he was able to generate valuable publicity for the event and
the cause that it was in aid of. His involvement certainly encouraged
many other runners to enter and because of this the number of entrants
far surpassed expectations.
Saville ran in a team of five, which also included singer David Dalmour, teacher
Tony Smith, sports centre official Neil Littlewood and Leeds Infirmary
administrator Alan Franey. Their busy training schedule looked like
- Week 1: walk and jog for two miles for five days
- Week 2: jog three miles on five day
- Week 3: jog six miles on five days
- Week 4: jog eight miles on five days
- Week 5: jog ten miles on four days
- Week 6: jog 11 miles on three days
- Week 7: run the entire distance once
The year before the Pontefract event, super-fit Jimmy Saville ran in eight
full and six half-marathons and ran a further six full marathons during
The hospice race was eventually won by Askern miner Don Weigel with a time
of 1 hour, 10 minutes and 30 seconds. The event proved to be huge
success and raised over £12,000 for the hospice funds. It went on to be
an annual fund-raising event for the hospice and was enhanced in 1985 by
the addition of a smaller ‘fun-run’, which is still held annually.
Jimmy Saville’s participation in the first half-marathon was a turning point
for the hospice fund. His personal support for the hospice continued
when he ran the half marathon again the following year, but more
importantly it was Saville who contacted The Prince of Wales convincing
him to lend his support to the hospice project too.
If you would like more information on any of our fund-raising activities
please call the fundraising office on 01977 708868.
The above article was written by Oliver Walker with assistance from Phyl
Hague, Greta Sharkey. Roger Norton and Laura Bennett.
Other articles about the Pontefract Hospice by Oliver Walker
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part One - Laying the Foundations
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract
Part Two - Support Groups
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract
Part Four - Flower Funds and Gardens