Owner looks back on friendship with man behind leading cancer charity

As Macmillan Cancer Support celebrates another successful year of its flagship ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ fundraising event, Boldmere resident Joan Brittan looks back on her friendship with the man behind one of the UK’s biggest charities, Douglas Macmillan.

Douglas founded the 'Society for the Prevention and Relief of Cancer' in 1911 following the devastating death of his father from the disease. The group, which had various name changes over the years, including “The National Society for Cancer Relief” and the “Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund”, provided information on recognising, preventing and treating cancer to patients, doctors and members of the public. The group, now known as Macmillan Cancer Support, has since become one of the most recognisable charities in the UK and, in 2013, raised over £187million.

Joan, who owns a one-bedroom apartment at Churchill Retirement Living’s Steeple Lodge development on Church Road in Boldmere, first met Douglas in the 1940’s when they both worked as civil servants for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Joan said: “Just after the war broke out, we were all evacuated to Lytham St Annes in Lancashire and it was there that I became friends with Douglas. He loved walking and would often arrange walks in the Flyde countryside for us during our time off. Once, he even organised a walking weekend in the Lake District, when we stayed at the Countrywide Holiday Association House Forest Side in Grasmere. 

“I remember Mr. Macmillan normally dressed in plus fours for the walks and cut a distinguished and energetic figure!”

On the 6th June 1944, Britain marked the day of the Normandy landings, known as “D-Day”, and Joan and her colleagues were all given the day off to celebrate. To make the most of the day, Mr. Macmillan led a walk in the Arnside and Silverdale area of Lancashire, going there by train from St. Annes.

Joan comments: “It was a very exciting day for everyone and we were all delighted by the prospect of having a day off. I remember that Douglas called me and my friend immediately to ask if we would like to take a trip to the Lancashire Dales to celebrate. This we did, and had a most memorable day.”

Some years after the war, Douglas retired as a staff officer for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and set up offices in London for his flourishing charity for cancer relief.

“Douglas also enjoyed writing poetry and once gave me a book of his, called Colplexins, containing several of his poems (some in Somerset dialect). I kept it for many years, but felt that it really belonged to the Macmillan Cancer Support organisation, which he had founded. I wrote to the charity to offer them the book and they kindly invited me to their headquarters where I was seen by the Director who showed me various items relating to Douglas, including an oil painting of him. It was a lovely day and it brought back lots of great memories I have of Douglas and the rest of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries team at St. Annes during the war.”

Joan now lives at Steeple Lodge, located on Church Road in Boldmere, a modern collection of one and two bedroom privately-owned retirement apartments by Churchill Retirement Living. “There’s a real sense of community here,” Joan comments. “It’s a bit like the old days in that way – and I love being surrounded by like-minded neighbours!”

Each apartment has been designed exclusively for those in their retirement years and has a number of safety and security features, such as a 24 hour emergency call line and a video entry system, for complete peace of mind. There is also an on-site Lodge Manager, who oversees the running of the development, and an Owners’ Lounge, which can be used as a place to enjoy a catch up, or a space to hold events.

A coffee morning to support Macmillan was held at Steeple Lodge last month, raising £315. As a group this year, Churchill Retirement Living raised £20,000 for the charity as part of the World Biggest Coffee Morning initiative.


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