In the early 1950s, a young woman and a young man arrived separately in bomb-scarred post-war London, hailing from different rural parts of Ireland. They met in the Museum Tavern at the junction of Museum Street and Great Russell Street, where the young woman worked as a barmaid. The young man was a patron of the pub. The pair eventually married in London and had eleven children here. One died in babyhood but the other ten grew up in busy South London houses. One of them ended up being my wife.
My in-laws, both now deceased, were remarkable people and their lives in London demonstrated the city’s remarkable openness to migrants seeking work and better lives for themselves and their children – an openness that still manages to outweigh the forces of prejudice and suspicion. When I first met them, Pat ran a minicab firm and Moira worked as a waitress. She and some of her sisters, who had also settled in the British capital, told many stories of re-filling the glasses of the rich and famous, including a Prime Minister or two.
Pat was the first to leave us. He died in Ireland, to where he and Moira returned after retiring. But Moria continued to spend a lot of time in London, and often stayed with my wife and I and our children at our home in Clapton. She liked to get out and about in the city, and – rather like me, an internal migrant – never ceased to be amazed by London’s bustle and diversity.
When she became ill, she stayed with us more often, and when it became clear that she hadn’t long left, she moved in to St Joseph’s Hospice in Mare St, E8. I had passed St Joseph’s dozens of times on the bus, and now it became a temporary home-from-home for Moira, my wife, her London-based siblings and some of Moira’s many grandchildren. Moira was cared for beautifully there and her experience taught me a great deal about the work of hospices and the hospice movement more widely.
That is why I am so pleased and proud to have been asked by the charity Hospice UK, which is the national voice of hospice care across the country, to be a member of its 2019 London Marathon team. I’ve been training hard and am now looking forward, a little nervously, to pounding out the 26.2 miles. I have been asked to raise £2,000 in donations. I haven’t done too badly so far, but I still have a little way to go. If you can help me hit the target, ideally by race day, 28 April, I would be extremely grateful.
Hospice UK is fine organisation that helps ensure all kinds of people, young and old, receive the love, kindness and comfort that Moria was given in her last days. Like millions of other incomers before and since, Moira and her husband contributed to the great things about London. I will be taking part in one of London’s great events in memory of Moira. Please give what you can to help me on my way. Thank you.