Golden celebrations for Sidmouth St John Ambulance

Hall built in memory of Sidmouth woman’s young son

FIFTY years ago this week, benefactress Mrs Brown gave a hall in Blackmore Drive to St John Ambulance.

On Saturday, members of St John Ambulance, friends and trustees celebrated the anniversary with an informal get-together at the hall.

Councillor Graham Liverton, St John’s president for more than 20 years, described how hard superintendent Brian Johansen, his 12 cadets and 15 adult members work for the community.

He said: “They work very hard and I am always delighted to be associated with them.

“We have a really wonderful hall, I think one of the best in Sidmouth, and we couldn’t do without St Johns, it wouldn’t be the same.”

He said they were always on hand to offer medical help at major events and gave some 7,000 hours during the year.

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Sheelagh Michelmore MBE, of Fortescue, has been involved with St John Ambulance from its inception and met Mrs Brown of Brownlands at the time she had the hall built and handed it over in memory of her son, who had died, aged four.

Before that the first aid group met at Libra Court in the old ice works. Salt was seeping through the walls, forcing them to move HQ.

“We needed to raise money quickly,” said Mrs Michelmore, widow of Sidmouth doctor, Dr ‘Dick’ Michelmore. “Mrs Brown was interested in charities in Sidmouth, including the Red Cross. To my delight she accepted an invitation to help raise money and then asked me more about it.”

The benefactress soon had designs on the site of the old Grand Cinema after its fiery destruction a decade before, and within two years the hall – now refurbished and extended – was handed over to St John Ambulance.

“We were so grateful, so thrilled and excited, we wanted to give it a nice opening and we asked Mrs Brown how she would like it. She said to do it how we liked, she would not be there.”

Now, 50 years on, Mrs Michelmore is still involved with St Johns, helping with the group’s fundraising, and has organised its flag day for many years.