‘A hard act to follow’ - hospital fundraisers thank Sheelagh for 63 years of service
- Credit: Archant
A charity stalwart who oversaw the transformation of Sidmouth Victoria Hospital through countless fundraisers and appeals has stepped down after 63 years.
The president of the comforts fund since 2000, Sheelagh Michelmore MBE’s six-decade-long service record was praised by her peers and dignitaries.
She was the wife of a respected doctor, the late Dr Dick Michelmore, and a young mother in her 20s when she was persuaded to join the committee.
It has since seen the community contribute £5million to completely refurbish the hospital, and secured kit to improve life for patients and staff alike – from medical equipment to television sets, when the technology was first breaking through.
Speaking at her farewell celebration last Thursday, Mrs Michelmore said: “I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s been a long time yet in some ways it’s been a short time, because so much has happened at Sidmouth hospital.
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“I was asked onto the comforts fund by Councillor Harold Selwood. I was involved in St John Ambulance and had just been invited to become president of the cadets, who were looking for a new headquarters, so I was cautious in my reply. I had young children and, also, a doctor’s wife in those days took on many responsibilities. However, Mr Selwood persuaded me and my husband supported me.”
Mrs Michelmore founded Sidmouth International School, served as a governor at Sidmouth College and was awarded her MBE for services to the community.
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She told well-wishers of the some of the challenges faced by the comforts fund and its many successes, including an elderly gent’s £90,000 offer to reach an appeal target, adding: “You could have heard a pin drop. The trustees are an outstanding team, representing the Sid Valley and always keen and enthusiastic to fundraise when needed. None of this could have happened without the leadership of chairpersons both past and present.
“The comforts fund has been a great part of my life and I have relished every moment, working with a superb team, and I can think of no-one more appropriate than Councillor Frances Newth, who will now take on the role of president.
“We’ve come such a long way since I first joined the trustees and I wish that Sidmouth Victoria Hospital will be one of the best and most up-to-date hospitals in the South West. Thank you all so much for the support you have given me over the years.”
Comforts fund chairman Graham Vincent said: “The Michelmore family have been involved with clinical care within the Sid Valley for many years, be it at the hospital or the health centre. Sheelagh has given 63 years of her life, not only to the hospital, but many other charities and governorships. The last 12 months have been very stressful for the community, hospital staff and comforts fund trustees. Sheelagh has been very positive that we should retain our beds.”
Mrs Newth said: “I’m enormously privileged to be stepping into the presidency. Sheelagh Michelmore MBE is going to be a hard act to follow. I really look forward to working with such a wonderful team.”
East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire said: “Sheelagh’s charm and personality has got the comforts fund where it is today. We know the history of what’s going on in the NHS, but I do congratulate you for saving the hospital in Sidmouth when others weren’t so fortunate.
“Sidmouth is absolutely a perfect example of where it is 110 per cent supported by the local community. I want to assure you I will fight for this community hospital.
“I know if your husband were here today, he would be as enormously proud as we are.”
East Devon District Council chairman Councillor Andrew Moulding said: “Congratulations from the district council and thank you very much indeed.”
Sidmouth Town Council chairman Cllr Ian McKenzie-Edwards added: “This hospital must be second to none, virtually, in the country. Long may it continue to be a centre of excellence.”