Meet Hilda and Ann

The Laundry Ladies of the Hospice

Communications Officer, Demi, had the pleasure of speaking to Hilda and Ann, Hospice Volunteers with a combined service of over 50 years. The dedicated duo started volunteering when the Hospice was located in Hutton Avenue.

Hilda said, “I remember walking through the town centre and noticing a sign that said ‘volunteers needed’ and I thought “why not?” I was bored stiff at home so was looking forward to having something to do.

I started volunteering over thirty years ago as a cleaner with my good friend Ida, who has since passed way. I even remember Alice Bendle (founder of Alice House), she was such a lovely woman.

Ann added, “I worked as a cleaner in Hartlepool Hospital and found out that the Hospice was looking for volunteers. I signed up to be a cleaner and that’s also how I met Hilda.”

When talking about Hartlepool, Hilda said, “I was born and bred here. I spent most of my teenage years at The Queen’s Skating Rink, (a popular dance venue which closed in the 1960s.) Every Saturday I would meet up with my friends at ‘The Rink’ and we would dance the night away.

Before volunteering, I worked at The Durham Paper Mill. I used to stir the materials to make the paper. I also went on to drive their horse and cart. We used to go through the streets collecting bits of cardboard.”

Picture: Hilda and her Mum

Ann explained, “I’m not a Hartlepudlian though, I was born in London and grew up in Streatham with my Mum, Dad and two sisters. My Dad worked in Fleet Street gathering stories for the newspaper and even worked on the Nuremberg trials.

I was an evacuee from the war and that’s how I ended up here. I first got evacuated to Wales and lived on a farm where I looked after animals. I then moved to Middlesbrough, where I reunited with my twin sister after 3 years of being separated. My Mum then bought a house in Hartlepool.

Before working in the Hospital, I was on Q Movements in the army at Hook of Holland. I joined in 1953 and then in 1956 I joined the TA.”

Picture: Ann, 4 years old in London, just before evacuation

Hilda and Ann now spend every Thursday and Friday morning at Alice House in the Inpatient Unit helping wash, iron and fold the laundry.

Hilda said “I wake up at 6am, have my breakfast of porridge with frozen blueberries, pop the radio on and have a sing until Ann picks me up. I love singing, I even sing at the Hospice to 50s music and dance around with my walking stick.”

After chatting with the pair about how sweet it was to think of Hilda singing away to herself, Ann chuckled and added “I’m pleased when the drier is on, you haven’t heard her singing!”

Both ladies have very fond memories of volunteering at Alice House, especially of the fantastic staff they have met along the way. Hilda said “The staff here at the Hospice are fantastic.

They’re all angels. You walk into this place and you never see anyone with a frown on their face. Everyone is happy to see you.

Currently, the world is an awful place with everything going on and I wonder how people can be so cruel. The Hospice feels like how the world should be.” ■

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Hartlepool Hospice Ltd (known locally as Alice House Hospice and formerly Hartlepool & District Hospice)
Registered office: Alice House, Wells Avenue, Hartlepool, TS24 9DA.