League of Friends - Charity No. 249466
A short history
The League was started over sixty years ago by Bill Burns who was the councillor for Coxford Ward.
There were only two shops in the foyer in those days, the League of Friends and a local newsagent who only opened mornings and evenings. Our shop was open from 8am till 6pm. We were allowed to sell cigarettes at that time, as were the trolleys that went around the wards. How times have changed!
Our shop sold fruit, flowers and vegetables as well as the usual items. This was very popular. We purchased a van, which was used early mornings, five days a week, to go to the fruit market to collect the fresh produce. The van was also used to go to cash-n-carry to collect the stock for the main shop and trolleys.
The League was very involved in Mellor Cottage, which was used for overnight accommodation for relatives of sick patients. We used to supply all tea, coffee and biscuits to make the stay more comfortable. When this closed in 1983, for development of the hospital, it was agreed that part of Victoria House be converted to replace it, which the League funded, at a cost of £27,000.
In the early days our main fundraising was by way of an Annual Fete, which was held in the hospital grounds. If it was wet we were allowed to use the hospital garage. An annual whist drive was held at the BAT canteen, which was usually supported by about 400 people. The ladies of the League had a sewing circle, which made curtains for all the hospital wards as well as such items as pyjamas for those who were rushed in as emergencies.
A trolley service to the wards was introduced offering daily newspapers and magazines. This now runs in the mornings, with a service to both the East and West wings. Incorporated into the West Wing route is the Neuro Unit.
A Guide service was introduced and visitors were escorted to the relevant places in the hospital. This required a good knowledge of the hospital layout and thankfully this is still in place to day as the hospital has grown considerably since then. It is now run by Voluntary Services.
We had two tea bars, one on D level and the other on G level, where smoking was allowed. As the hospital grew we had to vacate G level to make way for offices and the tea bar was then moved to F level where it is still operating today. We were then asked to vacate D level tea bar, which was required for hospital use. We have opened a further tea bar in the Oncology Department on A level. At one time the League also ran a T bar in Princess Anne Hospital. To celebrate 50 years of the League of Friends, the Reg Lowman Garden was created and opened in 2004 as a tribute to Reg, who was the driving force behind the League for over 50 years, although with the extension of the MacMillan Centre this garden has been changed and is now sponsored by P & O. This is situated on B level, off the main service corridor on the way to the Oncology Block.
Two years ago we had to close our shop in the main mall to make way for a new reception area and mall development. We actually closed two shops in the last two years and opened two. One was opened and closed as an interim measure before the new one, eventually fitted with air conditioning was finally completed last summer.