Provincial Grand Master, Brother Ewan Rutherford presents the cheque for £35,000.00 to Lesley Christie,
Director of Fundraising at St. Columba's Hospice surrounded by Brethren of the Edinburgh Lodges.
Photo © Howard Scott King
 

On Friday 7th December, 2012 at the Regular Communication of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Edinburgh, our Provincial Grand Master, Brother Ewan Rutherford presented a cheque for £35,000 to Lesley Christie, Director of Fundraising at St. Columba's Hospice. This presentation in the presence of more than 200 members representing every Lodge in the Province marked the end of a huge fund-raising initiative to continue the Masons’ constant support of our marvellous Hospice.

During the previous 18 month period every conceivable fund raising activity was employed to raise a substantial sum to assist in the rebuilding of an facility which has been lauded, honoured and praised by everyone who has had any dealing with the quite exceptional support, love and compassion which the 'angels of mercy' in Boswall Road have lavished on so many who approached their end of life in a caring, thoughtful and courteous environment.

From its inception in 1977, driven by the enthusiasm and zeal of a local GP Dr Derek Doyle and further reinforced by the 'hands-on' experience of Nurse Ann Weatherall, this truly huge leap in faith by the local community became a reality. It would be tempting to conclude that the rest is history, but this would completely overlook the tremendous efforts of the two health experts who had the vision to found what was and indeed is a world leading institution with 30 specialist palliative care beds, a day hospice service, community palliative care team and an Education Department that teaches students from around the UK.

As Dr Derek Doyle, the founding Medical Director said, "In St. Columba's Hospice, he wanted to create a place where people could sit with the dying and of course he did that and so much more". As palliative care takes over when curative treatment stops, the Hospice has always taken a holistic approach to caring for its patients and their families. Indeed the concern for the relatives during the patient's illness and in their bereavement has again been a blessing and a vital support to so many families

As it is almost impossible to catalogue all the activities of the staff at the Hospice, perhaps the following illustrative story recounted by Dr Derek Doyle confirms that every patient has different needs and there is emphatically no 'one size fits all' approach.

Derek reminds us of the days gone by when if you wanted to wave someone off at the train station you needed to buy a platform ticket. These cost one penny in the old days!

One day a very elderly lady was admitted to the Hospice. "Doctor", she said to Derek Doyle, “I know I am going on a journey. I am ready to go and my bags are packed… and have been for some time! But I am scared as well as a bit excited – this is all new and although I know that you cannot come with me, I do feel very lonely. It would mean a great deal to me Doctor” she said “to know that you have a platform ticket and can come with me as far as you can; that you will be there to see me off on my journey". After a couple of weeks, with no prior warning, the lady called him over and asked if he had his platform ticket ready. Derek sat down beside her and took her hand, conversation was not needed – what she needed was companionship and reassurance that she was not alone. "I'll let you know when I need to go on by myself", she told him. "I'll need to let go of your hand and finish my journey by myself but it will be such a comfort to me to know that you are with me". And, after a while, her hand was relaxed and Dr Doyle looked round to see her eyes were closed and she had a faint smile on her lips … and she had died.

Derek's telling of this story gives us a greater insight into what this patient needed – someone to take time and sit with her. To comfort and reassure, not with words, but with a calm presence. But this also tells us so much about what differentiates the Hospice from other hospital environments. In St. Columba's Hospice the emphasis is on what the patient needs.

Before receiving the very large cheque, Lesley Christie outlined the overall philosophy of the Hospice movement. Further she explained very carefully how the newly rebuilt facility in Boswall Road Edinburgh would carry forward the excellence of the old building which had been a vital resource for the community for the past 35 years. As the Hospice has been the recipient of many donations from the Masons of Edinburgh over the years, it can rightly be looked upon as a favourite case for benevolence so far as the Masons of Edinburgh are concerned.

Looking back at the original house which was designed by William Henry Playfair during 1825, we are conscious of the fact that he was one of the architects of the New Town of Edinburgh. The house was purchased in 1897 by Sir John Murray an intrepid oceanographer who sailed the world’s oceans drawing up navigation charts and in honour of her husband’s scientific achievements, the house was re-named 'Challenger Lodge' after the name of Sir John’s vessel . In 1929 the house was acquired by The Edinburgh Cripple Aid Society and it became the home to 40 boys and girls who were suffering from infantile paralysis – now known as 'Polio'.

Challenger Lodge was hugely supported by caring bodies within the City and none more so than the Masons. During the 1970s, the number of children dropped to around 20, donations were reducing and so with great reluctance, the Edinburgh Cripple Aid Society was forced to sell. After two years of hard work and painstaking fund raising, the doors of the house were thrown open again for those who required the unfailing skill and Christian love, which were soon to be recognised as the hallmarks of St. Columba's Hospice.

During the 1970s, the Masons of Edinburgh held many fund-raising events to assist in the refurbishment of the property and the provision of furniture, etc. for its new use. Rather as our forebears had done, it is again a huge honour to provide funding for this organisation which has transformed the final days of so many residents of our City. In receiving the cheque, the Director of Fundraising, Lesley Christie expressed the thanks from all at St. Columba's Hospice to the Masons of Edinburgh for their 'fabulous generosity and kindness'.

On leaving the Provincial meeting I heard two Masons talking to each other. The conversation was simple. They both agreed. 'That is what it means to be a Mason.' Yes the Masons of Edinburgh were justifiably proud of their achievements.

Brother Robert S. Tait
Past Provincial Grand Master, Edinburgh