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Manchester Foundation
Trust Charity

Penelope’s Legacy

Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital

A wartime plea for oranges saved my mother’s life

Lady Katharine Bryan tells us the story of her mother’s generous legacy gift to our children’s Hospital.

After Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital saved my mother’s life as a teenager, my mother dedicated her career to caring for poorly children right here in Manchester.

My mother, Penelope Mary Hilton, was admitted to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital during the second world war. She had a carbuncle on her upper lip that became badly infected. The infection later spread into her bloodstream and affected her eyesight. She became critically ill and began seeing double, going onto live with the infection for twelve months.

Penelope was admitted to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital during the war when there was severe food rationing. Many food items were hard to come by, and even the most basic of household goods were greatly limited. As I’m sure you can imagine, the Children’s Hospital was under immense strain during this period as the doctors and nurses endeavoured to provide the very best care with incredibly limited resources.


The doctor in charge of my mother’s care determined that she needed vitamin C to fight off the infection. However, there were no IV drips or even vitamins to provide a synthetic vitamin C that we have now; my mother needed foods high in vitamin C if she were to fully recover.

Of course, the wartime rationing meant that these foods were nearly impossible to come by. Many people during the war grew their own fruit and vegetables, but sadly the grey Manchester climate didn’t provide the ideal conditions to grow a full crop of oranges.

Instead of accepting defeat, our Children’s Hospital broadcast on the radio to sailors who were returning from sea and had access to some oranges. Incredibly, the sailors received the messages and donated their oranges to my mother. Many others, having also heard the message, also donated their oranges to the Children’s Hospital. My mother received her much-needed dose of vitamin C, and she eventually recovered.

It’s wonderful to think of so many strangers coming together for my mother in such a difficult time. I will forever be grateful to her doctors and nurses for the way they cared for her, and to the sailors who made sure those oranges got to her.

My mother was eternally grateful for the care that she received at our Children’s Hospital. She wanted to give back to the hospital for her care, and later trained as a nurse herself to care for Children. She left Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital a gift in her will, and I’m so proud knowing that her legacy lives on in the care that children continue to receive.

I can say with confidence that my mother’s gift to Manchester Foundation Trust Charity will make an incredible difference to the care that is given not just in our Children’s Hospital, but in every hospital in Manchester.

This city’s hospitals have a track record of being at the forefront of ground-breaking research and medical innovation that paves the way for treatment all over the world. They are home to world-leading experts who make sure that our hospitals are consistently at the forefront of patient care.

My mother’s gift ensures that Manchester can drive forward the next wave of pioneering treatment and research. I am overjoyed that this is my mother’s legacy, a legacy that she would be proud of.

Today, you could follow in my mother’s footsteps and leave a legacy gift to Manchester Foundation Trust Charity. Your gift can say thank you for the care that you received. Your gift can help to pioneer new treatment and research right her in Manchester. Your gift can alter the trajectory of someone’s life.

“I am overjoyed that this is my mother’s legacy, a legacy that she would be proud of.”

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