30th Anniversary feature – Moira and Vera

When word spread about the opening of a local children’s hospice, countless people set to work fundraising.

Vera Kennedy Richard Madeley Judy Finnigan Moira Rossiter

L-R Vera Kennedy, Richard Madeley, Judy Finnigan and Moira Rossiter at the Lord Mayor Rainbow Ball in the early 1990s.

Towards the end of the year Francis House will be celebrating a special birthday – the 30th anniversary of the opening of the hospice in 1991.

We recognise the enormous contribution so many supporters made back then and to illustrate the incredible outpouring of love in those early years we wanted to tell you about the fundraising efforts of two women – Moira Rossiter and Vera Kennedy – who helped to put Francis House on the map.

In 1990

Shaunagh Carroll (nee Ward) was the first person employed by the charity and she worked with Francis House founder Sister Aloysius and Sister Austin from the garage on the site of the hospice.

Shaunagh recalled: “As word got out in the local communities that there were children in need of a hospice it was like lighting a fuse. I remember Sister Aloysius opening the post and dozens of letters of help from people keen to get on board.”

This included friends Moira and Vera who became regular visitors to the hospice. Moira set to work organising a successful fundraising committee of Cheshire ladies, who called on their long list of contacts for support.

“Moira was great fun and kick started the fundraising with hard work and drive. She was a determined lady who got things done and brought in a lot of money, undoubtedly raising the profile of the hospice,” added Shaunagh.

Hottest ticket in town

Vera Kennedy, wife of John Kennedy CBE, KSG, DL founder of John Kennedy Civil Engineering and generous supporter of charitable causes; worked tirelessly behind the scenes organising exceptional fundraising events including ladies’ lunches, fashion shows, and golf events.

Perhaps most memorable of all was the Lord Mayor’s Rainbow Ball – from 1990 to 1993 the gala event was the hottest ticket in town.

Hosted by television’s chat show couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, guests flocked to the Piccadilly Hotel in the city centre. Manchester Airport sponsored the Ball and raffle prizes including flights to far flung destinations were readily donated by all the major airlines.

Brenda Bouker (nee Winstanley) was a committee member and worked for Moira’s husband Bill, as a bookkeeper at 1st National Locksmiths in Portland Street.

Brenda said: “We had so many donations from wonderful people wanting to help. Vera spent long hours on the phone asking people to buy raffle tickets and Moira was out three nights a week fundraising. The generosity was fantastic, it was an incredible time.”

Source Bill Rossiter. Moira Rossiter meets Princess Diana at the opening of Francis House

Moira also helped to initiate the visit to the hospice by Diana, Princess of Wales and when the Princess opened Francis House on 25th November 1991 Moira presented her with two Rainbow Family Trust jumpers for Prince’s William and Harry.

Moira and Vera even abseiled down the Manchester Town Hall to raise money and also helped to set up a charity shop on School Lane in Didsbury. Sir Alex Ferguson made two of his young football stars – including a seventeen-year-old Ryan Giggs – available to attend fundraising events.

Over a three-year period, Moira and Vera and their supporters helped to raise more than £250,000 – an incredible achievement.

We would like to thank the families of Moira and Vera and the thousands of people from across the North West that did so much for Francis House during those early years.

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