BUYMSH – Alister Firth – 8 August 2017

Alister Firth came to the club meeting in different guise to the photographer that we are used to. This time he was here as a member of the BUYMSH (Buy Malcolm Sargent House) trust, set up to build a new 21st Century Holiday House in Ayrshire for children and young people suffering from cancer and other life altering illnesses.

Since 1989, Malcolm Sargent House (MSH) had been a vital respite holiday home on the West Coast of Scotland providing holidays for such children, young people and their families.

Alister explained that following the much-publicised closure in 2016 of MSH in Prestwick by the charity CLIC Sargent, a campaign group was set up with a primary goal to prevent Malcolm Sargent House from closure. This was unsuccessful and the group then set about trying to negotiate purchase of the house from the charity – hence the formation of the BUYMSH campaign. Unfortunately, but perhaps eventually serendipitously, this too was unsuccessful and the house was sold on the open market. This resulted in the setting up of a new Ayrshire Charity in December 2016, formed with a strong Board of Trustees to work together with the original campaign group. With the backing of the local community, they elected to build a new holiday house and to continue the provision of respite accommodation in Ayrshire for children, young people and their families affected by cancer. It was decided that the new house would also welcome children and young people with other life-altering illnesses.

Alister said that BUYMSH currently has two principal areas of focus: an appeal to raise the necessary monies for building the new facility; and identification and acquisition of a suitable site.

Answering questions from the audience, Alister said that the new house would be run on a very different business model to the previous one. Specifically, it would cater for only four or five occupants (and family) at any given time and typically for one-week breaks. Staffing costs as a result would be significantly reduced whilst maintaining a quality facility. He also confirmed that negotiations and plans for a new site were well advanced.

Alister confirmed that the charity has received pledges of support from some very notable foundations but will continually rely on the strength and loyalty from the local community who have been the backbone to MSH over the years. Lastly, he highlighted the BUYMSH JustGiving appeal: