When Queen Elizabeth II arrived to lay the foundation stone for the Mary Potter Hospice in Mein Street, Newtown, she knew exactly who had done the hard work.
In her speech of 8 February 1990, she congratulated her people of Wellington who had raised the money to build the Hospice. The appeal to raise $6.3 million had been launched by Prime Minister David Lange only nine months earlier in May 1989. And when building began in June, the Hospice had only a fraction of what they needed. Starting construction was a show of faith in the community’s support.
At the event was Dr John Bonifant, a Palliative Care Specialist working at Mary Potter at the time. “I can’t recall her exact words, but she certainly paid a big tribute to the people of Wellington,” he said.
John believes she would have been well briefed by former Governor General Sir David Beattie and Lady Norma Beattie, who were joint patrons of Mary Potter Hospice at the time and who had added their weight to the huge fundraising effort.
The royal event is recorded by author Bee Dawson in her book With You: The Mary Potter Hospice Story, along with the fact that her Majesty was clearly a dab hand with a trowel. On the day Project Manager Brian Cardiff had the responsibility of mixing the mortar. “After the Queen had put some of the mortar on the stone, using the special silver trowel, she turned to me and asked, ‘Do you think that’s enough?’ And I said, ‘You look as though you’re an expert at this. Have another go’. And she did.”
Along with the spit and polish that goes head of any Royal visit, staff at the Hospice were lined up by Sir David and shown how to bow and curtsey.
On 22 August that year, and only 15 months after construction started, Mary Potter Hospice was officially opened by Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer.