Unique legacy of a couple who rode their fortune

FROM a corner shop in Mexborough, Fred and Ann Green laid the foundation stone of the huge supermarket chain, Asda. Yet they never forgot their roots, and their huge fortune was ploughed back into the town, where it still helps hospital patients, as Times reporter SALLY BURTON discovered.

TUCKED away in a corner of Mexborough's Montagu Hospital is a panelled room dominated by two portraits. The polished boardroom breathes history and has an amazing story behind its inception.

It is named after Fred and Ann Green, the Mexborough couple whose town shop formed the beginnings of retail giant Asda.

Fred took over Greens of Mexborough in 1930. His father had been a butcher by trade, but first and foremost, Fred was a businessman.

By 1958, he was in partnership with Associated Dairies and Farm Stores – better known now as supermarket giant Asda.

By the time he died, 40 years later, he had amassed a fortune and left a joint legacy to the Hospitals' Trust, valued at 11.5 million... with a special request for priority to be given to Montagu when the money was allocated.

Ann Green had been involved with her husband, both in the business and the community.

When she died in 1980, Fred was left alone, as the couple had lost their only son earlier in a cycling accident.

Fred was always a benefactor to the hospital and it was his wish that the money he left, went to charitable purposes.

A wealth of schemes have benefited from the legacy, and continue to thrive – many becoming self-supporting ventures.

A healthy balance is retained to earn interest, and to date some 7.1m has been committed, with more than 8m still in the bank.

A memorial garden to the Greens, with a timeline, has been created opposite the Montagu, close to where the couple once lived. Their grave is also upkept and tended by the Fred and Ann Green Legacy sub-committee of the Hospitals' Trust Board. Together with car park improvements, the garden cost 221,000.

And an advisory group with local representatives helps to ensure the couple's fortune is used for a variety of good schemes and causes.

Mike Rhodes, project manager of the Fred and Ann Green Legacy said: "With money from the legacy we have been able to do all kinds of things we may not have otherwise been able to do.

"We try to leave projects that should be funded by the NHS, to the NHS – and use this funding for specific schemes only."

One major successful investment has been the free shuttle bus, that ferries patients between Mexborough Montagu and Doncaster Royal Infirmary 20 times a day.

More than 1,000 patients, carers and staff use it to date every week. It makes no stops en route and the driver has discretion over the route he or she chooses – so avoiding road works and other delays.

Another scheme to benefit from the Green Legacy was the Clinical Simulation Centre at Montagu, completed in 2003, and costing 503,000.

The centre allows students to deal with emergency situations, and using a body simulator they can inject medicines and perform operations, with all training schedules taped for playback to students. Medics come to Mexborough from across the region to train at it.

In 2004, the sum of 1,454,000 went into a department of Oral and Maxillo-Facial Surgery and Orthodontics.

And Baby Fran, an interactive body simulator was introduced in 2008 at a cost of 30,000.

After a six-year land battle against Doncaster Council was won by the Hospitals' Trust, once-unused allotments next to the hospital boundary now form the Montagu's new car park.

The land also offers future expansion opportunities – including room for new wards which may be built if the latest plans – for a specialised rehabilitation centre – are adopted. Funds from the legacy may be used towards this end.

A dialysis unit or "renal satellite base" is also being built on former nursery land, to address the problem of a significant number of people in the Dearne Valley with renal failure. Some of these need dialysis three times a week.

The unit opens in August next year.

And the renowned Aurora centre, for cancer sufferers, with its two satellite centres, is another well-publicised venture helped along by the Fred and Ann Green Fund.

A 20,000 sum was put in, for five years initially, with a further 102,500 to expand the service in Mexborough.

A relaxation unit has also been bankrolled by the fund.

Mr Rhodes added: "We aim to ensure the best services possible for each location.

"Our minor injuries unit sees twice as many people as it did through Accident and Emergency, with people using the day surgery unit from all across Doncaster. This will remain a vibrant unit."

But, pledged Mr Rhodes, funding from the Green Legacy will continue to be directed towards Montagu Hospital – and local people will be consulted about its future use at every stage.