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Harry calls time on volunteering after more than 70 years

Tuesday, 11 June, 2019
Harry calls time on volunteering after more than 70 years

A volunteer – who served in the RAF during the Second World War – and has devoted more than seven decades of his life to helping others has been thanked for his efforts as he calls it a day.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust held a special presentation for Harry Mercer, 96, who has retired from his role meeting and greeting patients and visitors at North Tyneside General Hospital, in recognition of his many years’ service.

While Harry has been at the hospital for 35 years, his volunteering days go back as far as 1947 when he and his late wife Betty raised funds to build a headquarters for the Tynemouth Sea Scouts at the Haven which is still in use today.

He remained involved with the scouts for many years and in the late 1950s started raising money for the local NHS. Harry was chairman of North Tyneside League of Friends for 30 years through which thousands of pounds were donated to support healthcare services in North Tyneside.

Over the last four decades, he has been an active volunteer in hospital radio, driving the buggy which transports patients and visitors around North Tyneside hospital and meeting and greeting people when they arrive.

In 2017, Harry was selected by public vote as a regional finalist for the Pride of Britain awards in recognition of his lifetime of volunteering.

Harry, who lives in North Shields, said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my whole time volunteering – I certainly didn’t think that when I started in the late 1940s that I’d still be going all these years later but the truth is I’ve been having such a great time – I love helping people.

“I’ve met some fantastic people over the years and I’d like to thank everyone at the hospital for their support.”

Alison Marshall, non-executive director at Northumbria Healthcare, presented Harry with a lifetime achievement certificate signed by trust chief executive Sir James Mackey and chairman Alan Richardson and a gift.

She said: “I was honoured to give Harry the send-off he deserved to recognise his self-less contribution to our hospital and many local organisations over many years.

“He is a true pillar of society and a wonderful example of how volunteering can become a life-long rewarding activity.

“We can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for our patients and visitors. It simply won’t be the same not seeing Harry when you come into North Tyneside hospital however after more than 70 years of giving back to the local community, he certainly deserves a well-earned rest.

“From everyone at Northumbria Healthcare we wish Harry all the best for his retirement.”

Brenda Longstaff, head of charity development and volunteering at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “Harry has given so much of himself for his community. He is a shining example of what you can achieve as a volunteer and it is amazing to think that his selfless service has probably touched thousands of lives over the years. We shall miss him greatly.”

The presentation, held during Volunteers’ Week, took place as part of the trust’s annual long service awards event for volunteers at North Tyneside hospital.

Northumbria Healthcare has around 850 volunteers who tirelessly and generously give their time to help patients and visitors in a variety of roles. To find out more about volunteering at Northumbria call 0191 203 1511 or email

Harry’s retirement comes as his book charting the history of the Mercer family has been completed.

Media contact:

Jaclyn Curry – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

0191 203 1654 / 07833 046680