End of an era!

After 60 years of community involvement, around £million raised and many, many people helped the Malden & Coombe Macmillan Cancer Support Committee closes.

From Rev. Clive Piggot, Hon. Chair

The Committee was founded by a small group of housewives in September 1963 and as Alice Piggott was one of those ladies my father and myself became involved as did the families of the other founders.

In 1969 I was appointed as Head of Religious Education at Beverley School and one of my first acts was to meet the Vicar of Saint James, Father Francis Butcher, to arrange the school Carol and Founders Day Services. Fr. Francis was an inspirational man and was responsible for changing the whole course of my life as was Clifford Fisher the School’s Headmaster. This was the beginning of the relationship between Saint James, Beverley School and the Cancer Relief Committee.

The name of the charity in those days was the National Society for Cancer Relief.
In 1973 Mr. Fisher selected our charity as the main school charity and the parishioners of Saint James, the staff students and parents of the school and the Friends of the Malden and Coombe Committee formed the three groups for all kinds of activities. Our first joint party was held in 1973 (a Bavarian Evening) and since that time we have staged over 250 parties raising money for the charity and Saint James. The school organised three sponsored walks for Macmillan and supplied presents, some supplies and on two occasions the venue for the St. James Christmas Day Dinner for those who would otherwise be alone. They also supplied senior students on occasions to help on the actual day.

Events blossomed and we started holiday parties for students to Switzerland from 1972 until the early 80’s and then for the parents, staff, parishioners, and Friends from 1984. Annual holidays extended to The Black Forest where we use two hotels, the Manor House Hotel in Devon (now the Bovey Castle) and other holidays. Families from all three groups were involved in community fundraising and it was John and Joyce Greathead who named our holidays ‘Piggy Tours’. Themed parties were held in the Church Hall and other places such as Chiswick House (Imperial Russian Night where we had the costumes from the film Nicholas and Alexandra), Headley Court, the beautiful American Community School Uxbridge, Ember Court Police Social Club, the Richmond Hill Hotel and many others. We were even hired to do wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc, raising funds for Cancer patients. Many living outside our area became Friends and helpers.

In 1980 we started a Cancer Information Desk at the school and this led to the conversion of one of the classrooms into a formal Cancer Information Suite and Chapel which finally in2010 had a purpose built area with toilet facilities, etc. Each week members of the public came for information and support regarding funerals, bereavement, counselling and sometimes just for a chat about cancer and its problems. On many occasions I would take the funerals for members of the three groups (Saint James, Beverley and the Friends of Cancer Relief). The Suites were comfortable with armchairs, tea, coffee and in a setting of a museum with artefacts from around the world many bought by members returning from their holidays. In the last year it was open we had 120 footfalls just on the ‘official’ Thursday opening alone. Sir Edward Davey has supported us for 20 years and in fact opened two of the suites as they moved from area to area. Bishop Martin Wharton, Fr. Christopher Davies and Fr. Philip Thrower blessed the chapel areas and a simple Communion Service was held once a week for many years.

In 2021 we had to vacate the area and so we lost a treasured community asset. I had retired from teaching in 2005 and spent the time on my duties at Saint James and Macmillan. Over the years committee members came and went but Alice Piggott became our honorary President and remained so until her death in 2016 at the age of over 100. All the others have passed away, moved away or are in nursing homes or retired from helping. Only two are left (Ian & Clive).

Throughout all that time we raised a great deal of money for Macmillan and for St. James and had many helpers including many supporters from St. James, the students and parents of the school and of course our own members.

Many former students remain in touch and are friends including our own present Church Warden.

It is a remarkable story and the help from various local firms (especially Trevor Williams of Tudor Williams) who loaned us a premises where the ladies of the Committee ran one of the first charity shops In New Malden. All these events have raised about a million pounds for our community, through fairs in places far and wide, street collections, parades, church services, parties, coffee mornings and the dedication of so many local people who wanted to help those suffering from Cancer.
We keep a large collection of photos regarding the great times we shared and those who were such hard working members of the Committee without whose devotion nothing would have been possible.

And so the Malden and Coombe Committee of Macmillan Cancer Support will close. Many memories, many friends made, and yes, many people helped due to the hard work and kindness of those who lived, worked and went to school, St. James, locals in our community and others who just wanted to help.. some miles away!

Thank you.