The history of The London and Slough Run’s beginning
Phyllis Wallbank MBE – Founder
In the winter of 1984 my sister came over from Switzerland and to treat ourselves, I suggested that we go to London, one evening, to see a musical, which we did.
When we came out of the theatre, into the cold night air, we were very perturbed to see a man lying on the pavement in a cardboard box. It was obvious that he was going to sleep there that night.
I couldn’t get him out of my mind and decided to go back up to London to take the man a hot drink and something to eat. My husband wasn’t at all keen on the idea thinking it might not be safe but I persuaded him to let me go.
Not long after, I went up to London again. Dusk was falling and the evening was cold. Arriving at Embankment, I saw an old woman rummaging in a bin. I had with me a bag of food and my first thought was “God must have meant me to give her this food” so I approached her…and she ran away!
Undeterred, I went through to Villiers Street, near Charing Cross station, where I saw a man crossing the street whom I instinctively knew was homeless. I went up to him and offered him the bag of food and drink to which he replied “Thanks be to St. Patrick” and took it with delight.
I told him that I would come again next Monday night and I would bring the same. When next at Church, I told my friend Maura Cooper about it, she said that she would join me and so the Run was born!
The Strand was our first distribution point. We then would drive around the streets of London to find other homeless or people in need. From this, other distribution points were established.
Thirteen years later and illness meant that it was difficult for me to come up to London. I wanted however find somewhere else where I might be able to continue on my work. With the help of Dr Douglas Denny, I identified that there was a need for such help in Slough. Thus, in 1997, the Slough Run was established whilst Basil Potter took over the running of the London Run.
Both Runs have flourished because of the fine trustees and helpers that have worked with us over the years. The late Basil Potter was an invaluable and active member and Trustee. The Trust was made financially healthy by the fine Chairmanship of Jim Jacobson. He was followed by the excellent John O’Neill and then, the wonderful Brid Vaughan.
The London and Slough Run is now ecumenical but it would not have continued without our Parish Priest, Father Tim Russ, leaving his Presbytery door open for the parishioners to leave food, drink, clothes and warm covers there.
From the beginning, we have also had a huge amount of support from Sir Eric Anderson, the Provost of Eton, his staff and pupils. Both Runs also owe a great deal to the continuous Trusteeship of Father Sean Healy the Parish Priest, at that time, of Our Lady of Peace.
In 1996, I was honoured by the Queen with the MBE. I was also invited, with my family, to have lunch at Kensington Palace with The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
Basil Potter was also honoured with an MBE in for his tireless contribution supporting those that live beyond the margin of our society.