Parkinson’s Disease Society was founded in 1969. (Now named Parkinson’s UK)
The Halifax branch was founded in 1970 by Hilda Hitchen, 2nd only to Tunbridge Wells.
We have over 150 members to date and meet every month.
Those of us who remember Hilda I am sure will agree that she was quite a remarkable lady. She was
co-founder of the branch – with the help of her church minister (King Cross Methodist) – on 20th October 1970. She had only been married for six
years, when in 1953 her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 40. There was no help or support available and very little treatment. The drugs we are now all too familiar with hadn’t been developed. In 1970 she heard about Mali Jenkins of Tunbridge Wells who had founded the Society after her sister had been diagnosed with PD. Hilda wrote to Mali for advice and support – The result of which was to set up the second branch in the country – Halifax.
Hilda worked tirelessly for the Branch even after the death of her husband in 1974, until her own failing health forced her to take a back seat in 1999. Even then she was always available to give
advice, and was vice president of the branch until her death in 2004.
She was one of the first people to be made an Honorary Life Member of the Society and the framed certificate signed by Princess Dianna took pride of place in her living room. Hilda was not a person you could say ‘no’ to. When she said ‘Would you just’ you knew you had a job to do.
One time I recall with fondness was in 2000 Les and I, with Hilda, attended an Evening reception at Kensington Palace hosted by the then Patron, the Duchess of Gloucester, to celebrate the work of the Society and its branches. This was a very enjoyable evening sipping wine and nibbling canapés. Needless to
say we returned late to our hotel feeling peckish. Hilda smiled sweetly at the night porter and before long trays of sandwiches appeared. After chatting for a while the younger members of the group retired to bed. I dread to think what time it was when Hilda and her friends retired for the night, but she was still full of beans at breakfast next morning.
One of Hilda’s ambitions was to set up a Specialist Parkinson’s Nurse Service. So when we visited her in hospital shortly before she died in December of 2004 we were very pleased to be able to tell her of our success in securing a nurse for Calderdale.
To finish with Hilda’s own words on the occasion of our 30th anniversary ‘Of course, I would rather Parkinson’s hadn’t existed in my life, but through the PDS I’ve learned an awful lot, made so many good friends, locally and nationally and it has expanded my life so much.’
Let’s hope there will be no need for a Golden Anniversary, but to celebrate a cure for Parkinson’s instead.