Margaret Simpson - Hospice CEO 2004 – 2016

“Hospice was a busy, energetic, happy place despite the underlying serious and sometimes sad reasons why patients were there.”

 Margaret Portrait

“My involvement with Hospice Isle of Man began in September 2003 when I accepted the job of Nursing Director which started in January 2004. In 2005 I took on a role of Chief Executive.

St Bridget’s Hospice as it was then called, was facing major changes as a decision was made by its Board of Governors (known then as Management Committee) to raise funds and build a purpose-built Hospice as the original building was far too small. Kelsor House in the nearby Demesne Road was purchased to accommodate administration, fundraising and bereavement counselling service. Operating from two sites was not ideal. A significant fundraising campaign was started headed by Sir Miles Walker. Sarah Palmer was appointed to manage the campaign named the “Mighty Oak Appeal.” The campaign raised £2m over two years. Its final amount was achieved by the generous contribution from Mr & Mrs Barratt of the Mezzonin Shipping line.

Massive planning and staff and volunteers’ consultation had taken place. The final plans were agreed to start building. However, the question of land was not finalised as the then DHSS could not agree which piece of land, they could make it available so that Hospice could be close to the newly built Nobles Hospital. After many discussions with the DHSS, IoM government and final intervention by then Chief Minister Donal Gelling, the Hospice purchased the land close to the Millennium Oak woods for £1.00! However, as the site was a former landfill from building the hospital, the Hospice building had to be underpinned to the cost of £750,000!

Part of my remit when I was offered the job, was to develop a children’s hospice which did not exist. Hospice bank nurses helped to look after 2 children in their homes. This was not acceptable. Once I have expanded the Business Case first drawn up by one of our governors Mr Alan Townsend, I was given the go ahead to appoint our first Registered Children Nurse, Frances Bland. Diana Princess of Wales Care at Home Trust helped to fund her post.

Frances was soon joined by Nursery Nurse the late Debbie Pitts and the duo started to look after children with life limiting conditions in their own homes. Oskar Craig was one of our first children. He sadly died before Rebecca House was completed but was taken to what would have been his room by his family and friends just two weeks before he died. His name is still on the bedroom’s door.

Henry Bloom Nobles Trust “lent £750,000 to help build the children’s wing. One of the conditions was for children’s hospice to be called “Rebecca House” after Henry Bloom Nobles’ wife Rebecca.
Rebecca House was opened in November 2007.

The main Hospice building was completed in July 2007. Before patients and staff moved to the new site, Hospice opened its doors to Manx public and invited them to visit and view the building. More than 2000 people came through its doors prior to the move. The name and logo were changed. Our then chairman John Quinn hoped to find a substantial donor who might have wanted a different name attached to “Hospice”. Alas no one came forward so it just remained “Hospice Isle of Man”. The logo was changed to give it a bit more modern twist and make it more versatile to brand than former praying hands. The logo was designed by Tracy Harding. The marketing campaign was given to Lilly Publications to manage.

Lady Joan Smith generously gave £1m in memory of her husband Sir Roland Smith, former Manchester United Chairman. Alex Ferguson, then the current MU manager officially opened the wing.

Scholl Foundation with the help of William Scholl’s widow Susan generously contributed to the Day Unit. Jonathan Clague’s money bought the conservatory. Gough Ritchie gave funds for creating the Education Centre.

During the early phases of settling in we were privileged to host many VIPs. Starting with HRH Princess Royal, Viscount David Linley, through to Robin and Dwina Gibb (opened Rebecca House), Darmuid Gavin (the gardens for which Lady Smith paid too), TV chef James Martin, singer Alfie Boe.
We had a visit from Lisa Riley, Sue Holderness and Kim Marsh who took their time out of their performance “Vagina Monologues” to come and talk to our patients in the Day Unit.

Our Day Unit was well attended by patients coming for respite care, socialising and creative therapy. Drop-in days proved to be great success too. Hospice was a busy, energetic, happy place despite the underlying serious and sometimes sad reasons why patients were there. Many volunteers fulfilled various roles in fundraising, finance, secretarial work, in Day Unit and in the Inpatient unit.

Everyone worked hard but also had fun. Participating in some fundraising events under Mary Doyle’s leadership such as e.g., urban water slide was hard work on top of your day job but also it was great fun making many memories. We had tremendous fun filming electronic Christmas Card which Paul Moulton created with the whole team. Many of us participated in helping our volunteers from the Northern Fundraising Committee to put together a VIP recipes Cookery Book “Just a taste”.
Among those who contributed were James Martin, Lyn Andrews, Lord Dobbs, Dwina Gibb, Moira Anderson, Samantha Barks, Adam Wood – Lt Governor, many politicians and known Isle of Man personalities. It was sponsored by Sheila Dean of Equiom and raised a lot of money.

Every year we held much anticipated Hospice Ball with a different theme. Tickets used to sell even before it was announced. These black tie, special, glamourous events used to raise anything between £20 - £40k and all the time this was done through sheer hard work and having lots of fun.
Many corporate organisations used to sponsor those events. Among them Coutts Bank, Thomas Miller, Barclays, Lloyds and others.

Throughout the years I tried very hard to join fundraising and clinical teams together. Without including the clinical staff, the fundraising would be much less successful. Equally, without fundraising the clinical team could not deliver the first-class quality of palliative and end of life care that Hospice is so much loved and valued for.”

Back to top image