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Max Milburn

Max Milburn had supported the Hospice by chairing the erstwhile Special Events Committee for around 25-30 years. His contributions were recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in December 2020 and he was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in early 2021, at the age of 82 years.

Three years on and in the Hospice’s 40th milestone year, Max recounts his fundraising experiences for the Hospice; his relationships with its founders, especially Lady Miriam Hubbard.

“Lady Miriam was an incredible woman with boundless energy!”

Mr Milburn has been fundraising for several decades. Before he started supporting St Nic’s, he recalls: “At the time, I was involved in fundraising for the very first children’s hospice, which was about to be built in Milton near Cambridge. This was to serve the whole of East Anglia. Lady Miriam Hubbard heard about this and she said to me: ‘I’d rather you came here and supported me with my venture at St Nicholas.’ It was before the days of Turret Close and we didn’t have a building then. It was very, very much in its infancy when I came in.”

He continues, “Lady Miriam was very persistent and was extremely persuasive. So, I eventually managed to find someone who took over my role to fundraise for the children’s hospice and I was able to tell her that I was available. It wasn’t long before she wanted me to go with her to a meeting at Boxted Hall, where she had gathered some of her friends, who were probably among the aristocracy of Suffolk. Lady Miriam was the sister of the Duke of Norfolk herself.”

“It all started with raising monies for Turret Close”

It turned out that Lady Miriam had set up that meeting to discuss how funds could be raised to acquire Turret Close which was to house the Hospice at the time.

They all chipped in with various thoughts and, at that particular time, it was the beginning of car boot sales and some gentry were having posh car boot sales from their big cars. Everybody got very excited about the idea and at the end of the meeting, somebody said, ‘Well, who’s going to run it? Who’s going to organise it?’ She [Lady Miriam] immediately turned around and said ‘Oh, Max here can do it!’ It would have been churlish to refuse.

“Oh, but who is he, darling?”

At the time when St Nic’s was in its early days, the founding members, such as Rev Richard Norburn, Canon Sally Fogden MBE and Lady Miriam Hubbard were not only looking to source funds for the Hospice to have a building of its own, but they were also looking for supporters, fundraisers and staff who could run it.

So, when Lady Miriam had asked Max to come along with her to the meeting at Boxted Hall, not many of those present were actually known to him. “I remember all this very clearly,” says Max rather fondly. “As I got out of the car to open the door for her [Lady Miriam], I heard the hostess say, ‘Oh, but who is he, darling? It’s all very well you bringing this chap along but we don’t know him, do we?’ And I thought, well, I’ll show you who I am! And that was the beginning of 25 to 30 years of involvement.”

“We didn’t have a car boot sale…it became a little grander than that.”

The posh car boot sale didn’t actually take place though. Max says: “We didn’t have a car boot sale…it became a little grander than that. We wrote to the great and the good in Suffolk, asking them to empty their attics. We gathered a lot of stuff and organised a big lunch in the grounds of Boxted Hall. John Wolton, who was then quite a well-known local auctioneer, came round and auctioned the stuff and we raised quite a significant amount of money for its time, and that got us going.”

This auction event not only turned out be a successful fundraising event, but it had done something else: it had started to build momentum of raising funds on a higher financial scale through social events. Max says, “The people who were in the room that day, who had volunteered to take the lot, said after the event: ‘Well, we all enjoyed doing that, and we should think of something else.’ We must have held 3 or 4 events a year, after that.”

“We were very much an integral part of the Hospice.”

Even though the Special Events Committee worked externally from the Hospice to help raise funds for it, they were always connected to it, especially when the new Hospice was built at its current location.

Max recalls: “Time seemed to move on quite quickly and the new Hospice got built. We would always meet in what was known as the ‘Committee Room’. We had a direct link with the Fundraising Officer and we were able to use the equipment and the facilities of the Hospice. We were very much an integral part of the Hospice and we called ourselves the ‘Special Events Committee.’ There were times when the Committee would probably constitute around 14 or 15 people; a lot of them who have sadly passed away now.”

“It created a lot of friendships amongst the committee. We produced events which people really looked forward to.”

If there’s one thing that’s common across all these stories is the cultivation of friendships that are strong, loyal and have lasted for many, many years. The events organised by this committee brought about a lot of volunteering within the higher echelons of Suffolk.

Max regales, “We finished up getting an enormous amount of support from people who could provide the facilities. People would offer us their houses or their grounds. The Committee ladies would say that we don’t need to hire caterers; we could do all that ourselves and prepare the food. Quite often we could cadge the wine…and I think we were pretty profitable, as we virtually had no overheads.”

So, the support and provisions became more easily available for these fundraising events to take place, but what Max reckons to be an important catalyst for these events to be happening with such consistency and success was the camaraderie.

He says: “What I think it did, more than anything else, was it created a lot of friendships amongst the committee. We produced events which people really looked forward to. We had a really loyal group of supporters. Whether it’d be a lecture, cookery demonstration, concerts, or operas. We even held big events in the cathedral. On one occasion, the Princess Royal came to and even along with Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate.”

“I had absolutely no reason to be a part of the Hospice apart from Lady Miriam Hubbard.”

Max has a great deal of affection and regard for Lady Miriam Hubbard and her contributions towards establishing the Hospice as a proper organisation.

He says “She wasn’t fazed by anything. I then got involved and met all the staff and management who I knew very well at the time ’til it all changed. Lady Miriam’s death was terribly tragic. The funeral was a really big affair at the Catholic Church.”

“We did take the ‘d’ out of fundraising!”

With time, changes started to take place within the Special Events Committee, what with the more elderly members not being able to contribute as much; which meant there was space for new members to join it.

Max recalls: “There was a stage when the original Committee kind of tailed off a bit and we needed some new recruits. The owner of the Angel Hotel, Mrs Gough, said ‘Well, you can have the ballroom to arrange a meeting there and I won’t charge you for it.’ And we had a meeting there. I remember that the slogan that I was putting out to that meeting was: Please come and join us and we shall take the ‘d’ out of ‘fundraising’… And we did take the ‘d’ out of ‘fundraising’ because the fundraising [aspect] wasn’t the be all and end all. It was the fun we had along the way. The Committee meetings were always hilarious. The events were always so happy. We very rarely had anybody complain about anything. They were always so well received. The happier we made them, the more they gave us.”

“People were so incredibly helpful and generous!”

Speaking about the fundraising events that happen currently, Max has only high praise for these. “The Girls Night Out events are phenomenally successful, but of course, they’re being dealt with in-house. We were always out-house, so to speak, although we’ve had strong links with the managers. We weren’t part of the establishment, but we were working for it. We did it all without any kind of pressure, but we did it for our own pleasure and our own fun…and people were so incredibly helpful and generous!”

He goes on to recount another successful event that the Special Events Committee had run.

I remember Mrs Vestey said to me one day, ‘Please come and organise a lunch. Come and have a look at the house and see how many you think we can get in.’ So, I went over and had a word with her and with the furniture and everything being in position, I said that we could probably take around 30 people. So she said, ‘We could move the furniture out; could you not then make it to a hundred [people]?’ The gardener, the handyman and the butler all got involved and took all the furniture out. The dining room was cleared, the conservatory was cleared, and the drawing room was cleared. We managed to get lots of people in. And, of course, people loved the idea of going to visit a house like that with the kind permission of Mrs Anne Vestey, and they all flocked to it.

“We had a lot of goodwill.”

Mrs Vestey’s luncheon wasn’t the only event that took place. “There are some beautiful houses in Suffolk,” says Max, “and quite a few people were very willing to open them up and allow us to move everything out” to host these events. He says: “We had a lot of goodwill and I think the Hospice, in its early days, enjoyed an immense amount of goodwill, which was probably engendered by Lady Miriam and I did my best to foster it.”

“Unbeknown to me, a group of friends had been working secretly to get me an award.”

As mentioned earlier, Max was awarded an MBE for his contributions in raising funds for St Nicholas Hospice Care.

However, because of Covid, Max was given the opportunity to have the award presented to him locally by the Lord Lieutenant. “This appealed to me much more. Lady Euston is a good friend, and she supported me so much during my days of fundraising. A lot of what I had done, I had done with her help. She was the one who got the Royal Family on board. I was absolutely delighted and she was thrilled too.”

“The feedback I hear about the Hospice has always been immensely supportive.”

While Max has not been involved as much with the Hospice lately, he certainly likes to stay updated on what’s happening.

He says: “From the people who I know who have visited there, the feedback I hear about the Hospice has always been immensely supportive. It started with the enthusiasm of people like Sally Fogden, Lady Miriam Hubbard and Reverend Norburn. They were the ones who had the initial concept and we then took it on board and supported it in our own way…and now it’s an established part of the town’s fabric.”

Do you have a story about your connection with St Nicholas Hospice Care?

 

In our 40th year celebration, we want to highlight the many contributions in our Hospice’s history.

We’re aiming to proudly feature 40 faces across the year, could you be someone who has a story to share?

If you are someone who has a fond memory to share, you can do so here.