Neil Cliffe was an inspiration to many hundreds of people throughout his life. Following his cancer diagnosis, Neil was determined to create somewhere for patients living with the disease to find respite and comfort. He set about raising money by galvanising the community into action and spent all his spare time running marathons and inspiring others to join him.
Neil managed to galvanise the whole region with his ‘Buy a Brick Appeal’, decades before the word crowdfunding was ever invented. £1 million was raised and in May 1992, the Duchess of Gloucester formally opened the building we now know as The Neil Cliffe Centre at Wythenshawe Hospital – a great tribute to the amazing work he inspired. St Ann’s adopted the Neil Cliffe Centre almost twenty years ago, and the values of the hospice and of Neil and his wife Joan blended perfectly.
In 1985, Neil was awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List; he received the Celebrity Club of Great Britain Award around the same time. He was selected to be a bearer of The Queen’s Jubilee Baton at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. David Cameron, when he was Prime Minister, recognised Neil with the prestigious ‘Point of Light Award’ in recognition of Neil’s dedication and fundraising efforts. Neil said at the time “myself and my wife and family together with all our supporters will be thrilled and delighted to receive the Prime Minister’s Point of Light award”. Last year, Neil was the recipient of a Pride of Manchester Award and was nominated in the National Awards for Brave Britons. St Ann’s has been proud to have nominated Neil for a number of these awards and we were always delighted to join with him in celebrating his achievements. We were constantly moved by his humility.
Neil was an honorary Vice President of St Ann’s Hospice and a wonderful ambassador and supporter. He was loved by everyone at St Ann’s and we’re saddened by the news of his death.
I’ve known Neil since the very early days of his famous appeal. He was a kind, thoughtful man with a huge heart, full of love for those who needed support. I was delighted when I became CEO at the hospice and we were able to renew our friendship. Eamonn O'Neal, Chief Executive at St Ann’s and High Sheriff of Greater Manchester
Eamonn said: “The Neil Cliffe Centre has been part of St Ann’s for almost twenty years and has welcomed thousands of patients and families over the years and Neil always took a personal interest in those patients as well as the staff and volunteers. As well as being a gentleman, he was a really gentle man, whose soothing voice and reassuring words endeared him to everyone he met. We rarely saw him without his wife, Joan at his side and his great friend, Fechin McCormick was a pillar of strength to Neil throughout.
“On behalf of the trustees, colleagues, patients and volunteers at St Ann’s, I should like to send condolences to Joan and the family. Neil made St Ann’s a richer, warmer place and we’re going to miss him terribly.”