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Les Bourgs Hospice chairman steps down

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THE chairman of one of Guernsey’s largest charities is stepping down after 16 years in charge.

Mike Tanguy with Les Bourgs Hospice director Jo Boyd. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 20496985)

Mike Tanguy is leaving his role at Les Bourgs Hospice, citing that the time was right because he had achieved what he had set out to do.

‘It’s the best possible time,’ he said. ‘We have built and paid for a fantastic facility that is fit for the 21st century, we have an incredible nursing team, a wonderful Friends group and some amazing volunteers.

‘We have reorganised our retail offering and brought it all together in a much larger building with plenty of parking, expanded our day-patient service, although there is more to do with that area in the future, and built up some reserves so that we can cover any shortfall in raising the £1.2m. needed to operate the hospice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.’

But he knows how much he will miss it.

‘I enjoy every moment that I walk into the hospice. The time I spend with the patients, with the team, the governors, the friends and the volunteers. It might surprise people, but the hospice is a happy place. It is a super building, but it wouldn’t be the special place it is without the people that work and volunteer there,’ he said.

‘It’s been a pleasure to be involved, but I couldn’t have done it without support from so many and I have to thank my wife and my family, the Bailiff, who has always been incredibly supportive, [director of nursing] Jo Boyd, the nursing staff, the Friends and the volunteers.’

His next challenge will be to take on the role of chairman at Le Platon Residential Home.

‘We’re in the process of putting together a programme of works to expand Le Platon to offer a dementia wing and a new residential wing.

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‘That will be my last challenge.’

Mr Tanguy, a retired jurat, took over as chairman of Les Bourgs in 2001 from the current Bailiff, Sir Richard Collas.

He first became involved with the hospice in 1996 when he joined the board of governors.

‘At that time the board of governors met in the Rectory of St Andrew’s Church because the vicar there, Ric Smith, was the hospice chaplain.

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‘I’d had no connection with the hospice, but I was running Les Cotils and the Christian community was well connected and so when they asked, I said yes, not really thinking I’d still be here 20 years later.’

A former grower, Mr Tanguy was no stranger to voluntary roles. At 31 he had been elected onto the Tomato Board, the body representing the island’s booming tomato industry, and in 1973, at the age of 37, he took over as chairman. His appointment coincided with the oil industry crisis, which saw prices soar by 100% and interest rates at 18% and led to the tomato industry falling to its knees.

‘Those were difficult times, but every time there was an election, I was being elected with a bigger majority. That’s either a sign of confidence or more likely that no one else wanted the job,’ he said.

He spent 12 years in the role before a job offer took him and his wife Elizabeth to Scotland, where they spent five years, followed by another five in Chichester. As an only child, he returned to Guernsey when his mother became unwell and set about renovating and extending a former coach house at L’Ancresse.

‘I was tiling the roof when David and Jane Swiffen of Les Cotils Christian Centre stopped and asked if I could help them out for a few months.’

Although his career had offered him plenty of operational experience, running a Christian centre was a new experience, but one he relished and has fond memories of.

And it was through Les Cotils that his connection with Les Bourgs began.

‘Just before Richard stepped down as chair, they had started to talk about the future of the building and so one of my first jobs was to find a new director of nursing.’

Mr Tanguy recalls that the applicants were all highly qualified but there was one who stood out – Jo Boyd.

‘Jo was running three hospices in the UK – she project managed a new build, refurbished another and upgraded the third. She was well experienced and we somehow managed to persuade her to take the job. It was then that we started moving forward.’

The existing hospice was getting tired. It had a three-bed ward with room dividers for privacy and two rooms upstairs that were difficult for the very sickest of patients to reach.

‘When Greville and Lisa Mitchell opened the hospice, they faced a lot of opposition but they were determined to make it happen. We were facing a time when we needed to upgrade to continue to operate as a hospice,’ he said.

And so began the biggest fundraising appeal ever launched in Guernsey – to raise the £4m. needed to redevelop and modernise a cherished Andrew Mitchell House into a hospice fit for the 21st century.

The first challenge was to secure more land – the existing site didn’t have the room needed for a purpose-built hospice with all the facilities it required.

Two adjoining properties had to be purchased first before the plans could be drawn up.

What happened next has been well documented. Guernsey rallied around its only hospice, which receives no funding from the States, and the money needed was raised just months after the first patients moved in at the beginning of 2012.

‘It was a daunting challenge but one I am immensely proud to have overcome. My role has really only been peripheral. The Friends were phenomenal and raised so much through so many initiatives including the Million Pound Lottery, local businesses supported us and individuals made donations ranging from just a few pounds to tens of thousands,’ he said.

The hospice was officially opened by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in July 2012, with Prince Charles declaring it ‘the best hospice he had ever seen’.

‘As we were walking back to the car, I just asked HRH Prince Charles if he would become the hospice’s patron and he said he would think about it.’

A few weeks later, a letter arrived from Clarence House requesting more information and in February 2013, it was announced that Prince Charles was to become patron of Les Bourgs Hospice – his first patronage in the island.

In the New Year’s Honours List announced on 31 December 2013, Mr Tanguy was made an MBE for his services to charity.

‘That was a huge surprise and a real honour. But it was never an award for me as an individual, but for everyone who made Les Bourgs happen.’

Mrs Boyd said it had been a privilege to work with Mr Tanguy.

‘His enthusiasm, commitment and encouragement have been outstanding,’ she said.

‘We could never have achieved what we have without him.

‘However, he leaves behind a wonderful legacy of his work as chairman and we all wish him well for the future.’

The Bailiff, Sir Richard, said when he retired the charity was looking for someone with energy, enthusiasm and a standing in the community to drive forward the project to modernise and rebuild the hospice.

‘Mike Tanguy had all the qualities required. It was a daunting task, but Mike set about it with his characteristic good humour and positive outlook. He did not fear the challenge and was not discouraged by the difficulties. To every problem he had a solution.

‘He led the team that delivered for the people of Guernsey an outstanding hospice of which we can all be proud and to which so many people contributed.

‘My happiest moment was when I was privileged to attend the opening performed by HRH the Prince of Wales, who was visibly impressed with all that he saw. It would not have happened without Mike’s tireless service to the common cause for the good of the people of Guernsey.

‘It is a remarkable redevelopment that he delivered alongside many other voluntary good causes to which he committed himself and devoted his talents .’

Anna J

By Anna J
Deputy News Editor

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