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Morriston Hospital's League of Friends - the UK's oldest - celebrates 80th birthday

A group of people cutting a birthday cake at a celebration

Morriston Hospital’s League of Friends - the oldest in the UK, raising around £2.3 million over the years - is celebrating its 80th birthday.

The charity's remarkable 80 years of fundraising was marked by a special commemorative gathering, attended by Welsh Health and Social Services Minister Eluned Morgan and senior Morriston staff at the hospital’s Education Centre.

Morriston's LoF was founded in a 1943 when a committee was set up to organise film shows and concerts for wounded servicemen during World War Two.

Since then the Friends has worked tirelessly to raise funds and provide much-needed equipment for virtually every department and function of the hospital, from key diagnostic machinery to Christmas gifts for patients and staff.

There have been so many highlights during its history, including not one but two visits to recognise its outstanding work by the then Prince Charles.

A man cutting a cake after winning an award

The Friends also organised one of the highlights in the Swansea calendar for 34 years - the annual Morriston carnival, when floats representing each hospital department, alongside many others from local industries and companies, would form a procession which culminated at the hospital.

It became the largest carnival event in Wales and raised many thousands.

The group’s fundraising has paid for a huge variety of support, including the hospital’s first 3D scanner, at the cost of £93,000, as well as its chapel, complete with its organ, which opened in 1964 and is now a multi-faith centre.

The organist for 25 years was Mrs Megan Evans, followed later by Mr Phil George, who also played the instrument for a 25 year period.

To mark the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, the Friends provided patients with TVs so they could enjoy the pageantry while also constructing a commemorative garden, situated in front of the Ty Olwen Hospice.

The League also raised the funds to pay for dedicated accommodation for visitors requiring an overnight stay. Known simply as The Bungalow, the property, which opened in 1976, provided a welcoming and restful environment for family members who had made lengthy trips to visit loved ones.

Never content to rest on its laurels, the group went a step further in 2010 when The Bungalow was demolished with more funds being provided to purchase two flats, accommodating seven people, in nearby Clos George Morgan. 

A group of League of Friends volunteers outside a house

Pictured right are Morriston LoF members outside the flats in 2010

Relatives from as far afield as Sweden and Poland have benefitted from knowing they had a restful environment close by to provide a sanctuary while spending time with seriously ill relatives. More than 20,000 family members have been helped in this way.

It’s perhaps hardly surprising that having done so much to enhance the lives of both patients and staff, a number of Friends committee members have been honoured, including longstanding chairman John Hughes, MBE.

“The aim of the Friends has always been to provide some of the equipment necessary to place Morriston Hospital at the forefront of medical care,” said Mr Hughes, whose father, the late William Randall Hughes, was among the charity’s founding members and also a long-time general secretary.

His mother, Gladys, was also a member while John’s late wife, Trish, was the Friends’ long-time secretary, a role previously been undertaken by her father, Mr Trevor Evans.

Mr Hughes, who has been involved for 68 years, added: “Services and departments come to us with a request for something they need, we have a meeting and then we weigh up if we can help.

“There’s no big secret as to how we go about raising funds. At this time of year, we sell Christmas cards, for example. But over a long period of time we’ve gained a lot of experience and developed a lot of the contacts we’ve needed.

“The money adds up if you put the work in and there’s been things going on, projects to work on pretty much every week for all these decades.

“At one stage we had around 30 committee members. Now we’re down to seven but we’re still going strong. I’d especially like to pay tribute to Sian Harris Williams, who has been our treasurer for a great many years.

“The list of projects we’ve been involved with is a lengthy one. Sometimes it’s been simple things to help, especially in the early days. For example, we provided bed rails and curtains in wards, toys and furniture for the paediatric ward. We had a servery installed in the nurse’s dining room.

“Then there have been the much bigger projects, like the chapel and the visitor accommodation. But we’re just happy to help, if we can.

“When needed, we’ve transported patients by wheelchair, or even in their beds, to the chapel. In the past, this has proved popular for events like Harvest Thanksgiving and Christmas services.

“We’ve staged charity golf days, supported for many years by Morriston Golf Club and funded a hospital radio station called Radio LF, in addition to providing a service whereby patients could access a TV set at their bedside, which we called Morrivision.

A wooden plaque listing Morriston Hospital League of Friends members

“Our most recent projects include fundraising for a bladder scanner, cardiac monitors and medical trollies for the ED.

“It’s all been about the collective effort and we’re so proud of what the Friends have achieved. Our simple aim has always been to do whatever we can to make life more comfortable for patients.

 “When I look back on everything we have been involved with over decades, I think of the late Mrs MM Williams, a former Matron of the Hospital.

“At the Nurses Prize Giving Service in 1957 she said, ‘I do not know what we would do without the Friends. They put themselves out tremendously to help us… they are greatly appreciated by patients and staff and moreover, they get on with their self-appointed tasks unobtrusively and never expect praise’.”

Morriston Hospital Service Group Director Sue Moore, who presented a plaque and a birthday cake to the Friends, said: "I'm humbled by the amazing work, spirit, tenacity and commitment shown by the Morriston League of Friends over many years.

"They put me in mind of the Samuel Coleridge quote: 'Friendship is a sheltering tree.' The League of Friends are the shelter and their amazing support and dedication is something you rarely see these days."

Some of the more significant items and projects funded in recent years by the Morriston League of Friends are listed below:

2010 Refurbishment and opening of new relatives’ accommodation, £11369.57

2011 Purchase of Colorectal Endoscope, £17,422

2012 Purchase of Bladder Scanner to Ward S, £9,900, plus trip shower chairs and Dyson Fans for Ward F, £3,792

2013 Purchase of 3D Scanner to Maxillofacial Department, £20,700, Baby Resuscitaire to the Emergency Department, £9,600, plus purchase of Belmont Rapid Infusion System for A & E Department, £10,000

2014 Purchase of Bladder Scanner to Anglesey and Gower Wards, £7,250

2015 Purchase of Ultrasound Unit for Accident and Emergency Department, £20,900, plus falls alarm monitors for the Muscoskeletal Department Ward B, £4,151

2016 Purchase of Intra Operative Laparascopic Ultrasound Scanner to the Operating Theatres, £34,000.

2017 Purchase of Two Hivamat 200 Portable Units for the Burns and Plastics Department, £6,500

2018 Purchase of 15 Arvada High Back Patient Chairs for the Muscoskeletal Department, £8,358, plus Scopeguide for the Endoscopy Department cost £33,603

2019 Purchase of four x RITA Computer systems for Ward D, total cost £23,980, plus four Telemetry Transmitters for Cyril Evans Cardiac Ward, cost £4122.

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