Sister Margaret Lancaster recalls how in the 1970s, the Hospice’s two resident Oscar fish reinforced a message of inclusivity and diversity.
In the early years of Mary Potter Hospice, some weren’t fond the Hospice lounge because it was a dark and dreary room at the western end of the ground ﬂoor. Matters improved greatly when a new kitchen and occupational therapy room were built, but Sister Margaret felt it needed something more.
After some thought, she arranged for two big fish tanks to be built, joined the local fish club so she could learn to look after the fish, and stocked the tanks. At the club she met a lady called Margaret McMahon, who took an interest in the welfare of the Hospice’s fish, and trained volunteers in how to look after them.
The larger tank was soon home to a collection of brightly coloured tropical fish, while the smaller held two Oscar fish. Steel-grey in colour, these plain, round and some would say ugly fish, spent their days moving rocks around with their heads. Unimpressed, Hospice staff asked if the Oscars could be replaced by some more attractive fish.
Sister Margaret recalls: ‘I put a memo out saying there was no discrimination at Mary Potter Hospice and we would take anybody and everybody. So those fish stayed for many years. They were a joy, especially to children who would dash down to see them. In the evenings there were often patients down there in the dark just watching the fish in the light of the tanks.’
Written by Bee Dawson, first appearing in ‘With You: The Mary Potter Hospice Story’
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Mary Potter Hospice is a local charity and relies on your support. Each year we need to raise around $7 million to keep our services free. Whether you’re donating in memory of a loved one, in appreciation of hospice care, or simply because you believe in the work we do – thank you. It’s people like you that make our work possible.