Red Cross branch is axed in Horncastle

Representatives from the Horncastle branch of the Red Cross: Shelia Snelling, Betty Morton and Tony Bark.EMN-161213-104143001
Representatives from the Horncastle branch of the Red Cross: Shelia Snelling, Betty Morton and Tony Bark.EMN-161213-104143001

A stalwart member of the Horncastle branch of the British Red Cross has described its closure after 104 years as one of the saddest days of her life.

Betty Morton was awarded an MBE in 2011 for her services to the charity.

She said she understood the decision was based on several factors, including claims the branch did not have enough members or raise enough money.

Mrs Morton, who joined the branch in 1969, questioned the reasons and stressed that although it was short of new volunteers, there were enough members to have carried on.

She claimed other branches in Lincolnshire had suffered a similar fate including Sleaford, Louth and Alford and added Boston was ‘creaking’.

The final meeting of the Horncastle branch was held last month at Stanhope Hall.

Mrs Morton, who most recently served as centre organiser, said: “It is very sad this has happened.

“It is one of the saddest days of my life, especially when you consider the Red Cross has been on the go in Horncastle for so long.

“It seems like yesterday we were celebrating our centenary... now this.

“I would have b een delighted to see the branch continue.

“We did struggle to attract new and younger volunteers but there were enough of us willing to carry on.

“But the decision has been made. There’s no turning back.”

Mrs Morton said she believed a decision to axe the Horncastle’s youth section several years ago was the ‘beginning of the end.’

She added: “Previously, there was a pathway for young people to join, train and then move into the youth section.

“ In hindsight, closing it was a very poor decision.

“We have tried to attract new members but it has been difficult. We’re not the only organisation to struggle.”

Mrs Morton admitted it was also difficult for older volunteers to attend the many first aid training courses.

The closure comes just five years after the branch moved to Stanhope Hall.

It marked a poignant ‘homecoming’ as the Red Cross set up a hospital at Stanhope Hall for wounded soldiers during the First World War.

The Horncastle branch offered a range of services, including loaning wheelchairs and other equipment.

Mrs Morton said some Horncastle members had joined other branches.

She stressed members would also continue to raise funds for the charity via events like the popular Horncastle open gardens weekend.

She said the Red Cross would continue to provide first aid cover and added that as far as she knew the branch closure would not affect the Red Cross charity shop in the town.

l The News contacted the area office of the Red Cross to speak to officials about the branch closure but no-one was available for comment.