When acts of kindness didn’t cost the earth

Buchanon Hospital, St Leonards
Buchanon Hospital, St Leonards

A former Hastings resident, Mr Colin Linch, has asked the Hastings Observer for information on a long-ago feature of the paper.

This is known to him only as the LLK, in which he was enrolled at the age of three months in 1933.

Many will remember the Little League of Kindness, the Hastings Observer’s Children’s Corner, which ran for decades and was written by a variety of “uncles,” some of whom were actually aunties. One of its roles was to encourage children to express kindness by collecting farthings, the smallest currency in circulation at the time, for the Observer Cot Fund. Thanks to Brian Westbrook, a retired Observer employee, we have a copy of the 1933 end-of-year letter from “Uncle Tom” that was printed in the paper. It noted how much the children had contributed to the cause of endowing infants’ cots at the Hastings Royal East Sussex and Buchanan Hospitals’ childrens’ wards. The latter hospital was opened in 1884 with 15 beds and a children’s wing was added in 1908, the gift of a Mrs Thomas Mason, after whom it was named. The Royal East Sussex hospital, opened in 1927 once stood on a site opposite to the White Rock Gardens. Mrs Angie Quinnell of Ore remembers that as a small child she had a dark green enamel badge that bore the letters LLK in gilt. It is believed that the nickname for the young fundraisers was Elkins. The photo of the Buchanan Hospital’s Mason Ward shows the cots and a glimpse of the famous ceramic tile nursery rhyme murals, now in the Conquest Hospital. During 1933 local children had raised a total of 52,599 farthings, worth almost £55, a considerable sum in 1933. Uncle Tom, not knowing of the seismic upheavals that would shake the country’s health system, hoped that, “the Cot Fund would go on forever.” Exactly who Uncle Tom was at that time may be gathered from the accompanying Observer photographs, highlighting editors 1 and 2 as being the staff who wrote the LLK feature at the time. It also offers a clue as to who was number one. He bears a striking resemblance to Frederick Goodsell who in 1940, aged 31, became the paper’s editor, the youngest in the paper’s history. A former Hastings Grammar School boy, he had started work with the Observer in 1926 as a cub reporter. Goodsell eventually became an important figure in the town, one whose leader articles were much respected; a far cry from being Uncle Tom in the Children’s Corner. The group photo, also supplied by Brian Westbrook, was taken in the Central Methodist Church, which once stood opposite the old Observer building. If you know any of those featured in it we would be interested to hear from you. Further Reading: A selection of Victoria Seymour’s Looking Back articles are now an illustrated book called “Looking Back on Hastings.” It is priced £9.99 and is available from Waterstones, The History House and the Information Centre.