DOES IT AGAIN
By Andrew Boyle
rIN a lonely, wind-swept stretch of Cornish heath, G./Capt. Geoffrey Leonard Cheshire, V.C., has established his third home for the sick.
Not far away is the hospital he founded in the spring of 1951.
This latest chapter in the story of Cheshire's mission of mercy since his conversion in 1948 is at least as remarkable as those which preceded it.
Holy Cross Home, the new foundation, is a centre for the care of "men and women who don't quite fit in with ordinary life," as he himself delicately put it when we met at the week-end. People impersonally classified as "semi-mental cases" or "social misfits" are treated there.
With the trust in Providence that has always characterised his approach to seemingly insoluble practical problems, Cheshire "just went ahead." he had half-decided to start on his latest venture when we met shortly before Christmas. But it would take a small book to detail the many obstacles, financial and material, he has surmounted in the few months since.
The abandoned building he secured was, as usual, made habitable by the voluntary work of scores of local people — men from the nearby airfield where he once worked, others living close at hand who know and admire him.
Carpenters helped with furniture and repairs, painters strolled in to give the place a bright new look. Trained staff were not long in joining him. And he could count on wholehearted help from both patients and nurses in St. Theresa's Home across the way.
Like the original Cheshire foundation home at Le Court, Liss, in Hampshire, St. Theresa's is a hospital for advanced cases of disseminated sclerosis and other progressive diseases of the nervous system. Also like Le Court, it is a flourishing institution — so far as independent hospitals these days ever are that.
The patients have no time to indulge in self-pity or bitterness. They are encouraged to help one another and to support the home, where a fair proportion of them can contribute only the £2 statutory allowance for all hospital patients.
They and the staff live and eat together as 'a family, with a minimum of rules and red tape.
Other hospital managements have perpetual money worries. Not so at Le Court or in the two Cornish foundations.
"I can't explain it," said Cheshire. "When we need money or anything else, it simply turns up."
I have experienced his simple faith on this score before, but never so sharply as last Saturday when I learnt the quiet sequel to something I heard first at Christmas-time.
"I forgot to tell you," he said to me on one of his infrequent visits to London. "We've discovered. of all things, an uphill stream under Le Court that's eating away the foundations. I've had a good surveyor in, and he estimates we'll have to pull the place down and start from scratch."
I asked, "What's that going to cost?"
He answered with a dry smile, "Only 115,000."
"What's the next move?" I said.
"I've taken that," he answered, smiling. "I've called in the best architect and have had new building plans drawn up."
That was just over six months ago. On Saturday he told me, "By the way, remember that sum ws had to find? It's gone up now to £50,000. We've been stiven a grant for that amount by the Carnegie Trust."
Once again Cheshire's faith in Providence has been justified.
Le Court came into being after the failure of Cheshire's first experiment in 1948. His salf-sufficient agricultural community of ex Service men had gone bust with a deficit of 118.000. following a breakdown which had taken him off to Canada for nearly a year.
Sitting alone in the empty, echoing house wondering what to do next, Cheshire found himself opening the door one morning to a man whose face was familiar. It was an excolleague from the settlement. He was suffering from cancer and bad riot long to live. Cheshire nursed him till he died.
By then there were other patients, all of them with nobody in the world to look after them, and with no hospital willing to keep them indefinitely. And so Le Court grew up.
People from surrounding districts visited Lc Court. recently for the second annual garden fete. Opened by film star Valerie Hobson, organised and run by the patients, Toe H and local volunteers. it realised over 1700'
Cheshire told me that there is at present chiefly one need which Catholics could supply. "In the rebuilt home we shall have to provide our own chapel, Meanwhile we have a chaplain who comes when he can to celebrate Mass. If anyone would help us to provide the Mass equipment. I would be more than grateful."