Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Save our community Hospitals Rally

Went well.
The planned march from the Fenwick Hospital to Boltons Bench had to be limited in numbe to 200. This was because of the constraints of the historic town of Lyndhurst - narrow streets and a fiendish one way system to boot.

Romsey League of Friends had pulled out of officially taking part in the march. This was because of the plan to carry five coffins - representing the death of the five local community hospitals. There is local history behind the reason for this decision. Some years ago there was a plan to build a supermarket on the edge of the town. There was a mass rally and some local people carried coffins. I was not there but the memory of this event is still fresh in the minds of many local people.

So, yesterday, we had five banners representing the local hospitals and four named coffins. There was a fifth coffin but the name "Romsey" had been omitted out of respect. There were pall bearers dressed in black and there were numerous people wearing t shirts with slogans.

Then there were the pipers who accompanied the march!

Local TV reporter was v worried about this as she was concerned that no one would be able to hear what she was saying if the pipers started playing at the wrong time.

Julian Lewis (MP for New Forest E) and I headed the procession carrying a placard saying "Bury the PCT Not the local hospitals". We were in very close proximity to the bagpipes and I have to say that I had not quite appreciated just how much noise they make!

We arrived at Boltons Bench slightly early to join the other protesters (all in all we reckon about 2000) and decided to go straight into the speeches. First up (to quote Davina McCall and a many other people younger than I) was Lawrie McMenemy - local folk hero from his time as manager of Saints (those were the days).

A procession of (mostly) short speeches followed and Desmond Swayne (MP for New Forest West) acted as Master of Ceremonies. There was quite a funny moment when he was introducing Julian Lewis and I but unfortunately he got all the constituencies muddled up. NO offence was taken and it was a chance to repeat the message that this is not a party political issue.