What do Coronation Street, Pelé, and a pile of conkers have in common?

By Eamonn O'Neal on May 17, 2019

Though it may sound like it, that’s not the start of a bad joke. They’re actually all connected to a very special event that happened on this day in 1971. The day St Ann’s Hospice opened.

Today we celebrate our 48th birthday.  It’s staggering to think that the hospice has been providing care to local patients for almost half a century.  In fact, we’re already in the midst of making exciting preparations for our 50th anniversary, a huge milestone in our history, which will take place in 2021. All will be revealed soon, so watch this space.

We’ve supported hundreds of thousands of patients and families since we first opened our doors to patients on 17 May 1971.  St Ann’s site in Heald Green was our first hospice, and was built thanks to a huge number of people from our local communities coming together as one.  They were pioneers of their time, and in 1967, Dr Moya Cole approached the Bishop of Manchester Right Reverend Dr William Greer about setting up Manchester’s first hospice.  It was just a few years after the very first hospice was opened in London, and there were big plans to create a special place for patients in Manchester to receive a new and different kind of care, right at a time when they needed it most.

Queen Mother visiting Heald Green Hospice

As plans developed, the whole city got behind the huge fundraising appeal to create a new hospice. Granada Television opened the hallowed cobbles of Coronation Street to the public for the first time ever to raise money, with visitors paying 10p admission to walk the street. Queues stretched a mile from the TV Centre to Deansgate, and actors including Violet Carson, Pat Phoenix, Doris Speed and William Roache, amongst others, gave up their weekends to sign autographs on set. A BBC North West TV appeal evening also raised thousands towards the new hospice building.

It wasn’t just Mancunians lending their support to the campaign either. Brazilian soccer star Pelé donated his yellow World Cup shirt to be raffled for the appeal, and thousands turned out to see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, officially open the Heald Green hospice in June that year.  It was a very cold day, not what you’d expect in June, and activities took place across the city to mark the opening.  A band in Eccles did a 6-hour non-stop reading of War and Peace to raise extra funds, whilst a group of small boys in Bury sold conkers at four-a-penny.

I love looking back at the history of the hospice.  We’ve been doing that a lot this year too, as we marked the 40th anniversary of our Little Hulton building opening in April.  I’m proud that we’ve played such an important role in our local communities for such a long time, and it’s a privilege and also a huge responsibility for us to ensure that the hospice can continue to play such an important part for many years to come too.

Hospice care has changed a lot over the years, but as I’ve said many times before, our patients remain at the very heart of what we do.  We’re continually evolving and developing the care that we provide to local people, and it’s certainly an exciting time in St Ann’s history.

We’re really looking forward to sharing our plans as we approach our 50th in 2021, and thank you for everything you do as part of the St Ann’s community.  Now…I wonder how much I can raise from the pile of conkers in my garden this Autumn?

Can you help us keep our doors open?

If you can help support us to ensure we can continue to care for patients and their loved ones for years to come please donate here.