Hundreds say farewell to Lancashire’s ‘Mr Hospice’

Funeral of John Ncikson at St Teresa's Church, Penwortham
Funeral of John Ncikson at St Teresa's Church, Penwortham
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Hundreds of mourners packed a church for the funeral of a devoted hospice fund-raiser who touched the lives of many.

Tributes poured out to John Nickson at St Teresa’s RC Church in Penwortham yesterday.

He wasn’t the tallest man in Lancashire, but in many ways he was the biggest.

John worked tirelessly for St Catherine’s Hospice in Lostock Hall for two decades between 1990 and 2010.

He was known affectionately by many in central Lancashire as ‘Mr Hospice’ and was said to have put the St Catherine’s on the map.

He died at St Catherine’s, aged 69, after suffering from a rare condition called myelodysplastic syndrome, a cancer affecting the bone marrow.

The church service was given by Father Philip Inch, who spoke of John’s humour and love of life and of his faith.

Like many others, Father Inch made light-hearted reference to John’s height – he was only 5ft 6ins – telling mourners: “He wasn’t the tallest man in Lancashire, but in many ways he was the biggest.”

Stephen Greenhalgh, chief executive officer of St Catherine’s, said: “One of John’s opening lines was ‘I am standing up’ - but we are all standing up for John today.”

He added: “He served the hospice for 20 years and during that time surpassed all expectations.”

He spoke of John’s work at St Catherine’s, the charity shops, creating the first UK hospice lottery and countless events and attention-grabbing stunts, such as sitting in a bowl full of custard and a Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride with a friend on a tandem.

“John held our nurses, staff, doctors and volunteers in the highest regard,” said Mr Greenhalgh.

“His humour and sense of fun was everywhere.”

Mr Greenhalgh said shortly before John died, he went to his room where he was sleeping, took hold of his hand and quietly whispered: “Thank you John, thank you from all of us.”

In the eulogy, Dean Taylor used a cricket analogy, quoting the Sir Henry John Newbolt poem of 1892 Vitai Lampada, saying that when the odds were stacked against you, John was the man to turn to.

He spoke of his working life in retail, his love of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Rhythm & Blues and local amateur theatre.

“Personally, it’s for the cricket which I will most remember him. He loved the game,” he said.

“One of his favourite quotes was ‘cricket is not a metaphor for life - life is a metaphor for cricket’.

John lived in Longton. Among the mourners was his wife Maureen. They were described as “soul mates”.

The service went round the world via webcam, to countries including the USA, Italy, France and Thailand.

It was followed by interment at St Oswald’s Churchyard in Longton.