Where it started
The local branch was formed in 1965 after the Leukaemia Research Fund itself was started in the North East. One original member of that Branch moved to work for Blackpool Town Council and placed an advertisement in the local press asking for anyone interested in setting up a Branch of the new LRF to attend a meeting. About 20 families responded and from these, 11 formed the first committee – they came from the Fylde coast, Blackpool town and the Over Wyre area – hence the ultimate choice of name the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Branch. Two members of the Over Wyre families are still involved today. Over the years the Branch has met at the Town Hall Blackpool, the Falcon Hotel (Owners Margaret and George Cramp were members for many years), South Shore, members’ houses, St Kentigen’s Hall and now at Tesco, Blackpool South.
Marjorie Wilkinson – founder member, Former Branch Secretary & Morecambe Bay Walk organiser:
“Fundraising events in the early days ranged from street collections throughout the area, coffee mornings and evenings, sponsored events and sales. One of the earliest of these involved the purchase of baby dolls which were then dressed by members of the Women’s Institutes, particularly the Over Wyre groups. With over 100 dolls to sell, we took a stall at the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Show where we publicised the work of the fund and drew some new helpers.
Sponsored events over the years have ranged from parachute jumps, walks, bike rides, trampolining, slimming and the Blue Peter Bikeathon. Sponsoring also led to the Morecambe Bay Walk , run in conjunction with the Over Wyre Group of the Trinity Hospice. This ran for over 20 years and raised over £100,000 between the two charities.
‘One off’ events along the way include:
- The visit of H.M. the Queen to Preston when the Branch was invited to send two representatives to her reception (Hon President Val Hartley and secretary Marjorie Whitworth attended)
- The opening of a research unit by the Duke of Kent in Manchester, where the branch was represented
- The Botham walk from John O’Groats to Lands’ End, when members of the Branch walked from Lancaster to Garstang with him
- A Sportsman’s dinner in Blackpool attended by Bill Beaumont and Ian Botham with a massive Auction in aid of the Fund and where our Branch took a table
- The planting of a ‘Leukaemia Rose’ bed of remembrance in Blackpool Stanley Park
- The award of the Certificate of Merit to Val Hartley (Hon Branch President) & Linda Whitworth (Branch Chair)
- The award of the MBE to one member in part for her services to the branch over many years
- Recently, the election of our treasurer to be the North West area Chairman.
We also remember the help and loss of some of our dedicated members who suffered from the disease and gave of their best. To mention individuals is treading on dangerous ground, and all the volunteers-officials, committee members and helpers over the years have worked hard and cheerfully. However, we cannot ignore the hardworking, thoughtful and caring Chairmanship of Mrs Linda Whitworth. The Branch has had one or two difficult spells in the past but Linda steadied the ship and the Fund goes from strength to strength under her guidance.”
Linda Whitworth, Chairman:
“I remember my first Flag Day in May 1975 was in Blackpool Town Centre – we had our HQ in the Central Methodist Church behind the Tower. We went back there to offload our tins, and there were Branch members continually counting the tins as they came in, so that we could have a running total as the day went on. In those days we were allowed to ask passers-by to donate. A few weeks later, we held a Flag Day in Poulton – I was considerably bolder in asking there and consequently collected more in my tin!
I remember the Hoe-Downs with hot-pot supper we used to run once a year in the winter – usually at one of the hotels, e.g. the Cliffs. Great fun, but rather a nightmare, as we tried to sell tickets beforehand and worried that people would turn up! On those evenings as well, we drew the winning numbers for The Grand Draw – tickets for which we had been selling for a few months beforehand. Businesses and individuals would donate prizes.
Looking back, we have had many, many happy moments and met some wonderful and generous people. Although we don’t fundraise in quite the same way now, we did what worked at the time, and then knew when it was time to move on and try something new.”
Today: celebrating our 50th anniversary and beyond
It’s been great to hear the stories of the Branch’s early days and go through the old clippings and memories, unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to speak to as many members as I would have liked. Given the branch has been going for 50 years I’m a relative newcomer having only been involved about 18 years! In that time though we’ve had some great fund raising events, from Eric and Ivy Bird’s Sequence Dance in Fleetwood Marine Hall, which drew people from across the County to the Mile of coins on Blackpool Promenade. One of the most fun has to be 83 year old Alan’s Disco Bounce last year! This year some friends and I rode just under 200 miles on the Old Boys Tour de Yorkshire which will raise over £5500 once all sponsorship and Gift Aid is in.
The branch has now raised well over £630,000 since its inception with hopefully more to come!