Neighbours (Episode 2)

Volunteer Christina continues the story of our Ninewells garden neighbours.

Now to continue the story of the gardens neighbours. Following on from the previous episode about Ninewells we continue onto our next neighbours, just over the wall behind the willow patch (regularly damp under foot so I’m guessing another of natural springs of the ninewells is there!) are the subjects of today’s blog, the Helipad and Maggies Centre.

Historically on the rare times a helicopter came into Ninewells it landed on the grass outside the West Block. As a student nurse in early 80s I remember great excitement in children’s ward as it came in and all the children, who were able, were at the window and many of those who couldn’t get there leaning at various precarious angles out their beds to try to get a view!! This is excitement began with the arrival of two fire engines and various emergency vehicles before the helicopter itself. With the transfer of DRI and Casualty to the Ninewells site helicopter arrivals increased so a designated helipad was built with lighting and buffered sides. It is now regularly in action with Scottish Air Ambulance landing though with the proper helipad fire engines no longer required.

Next to helipad is Maggies Centre. This is a support centre run by an independent charity for those dealing with cancer, both directly themselves or indirectly as a loved one. It is far enough away to be separate and a refuge from the hospital environment but close enough to be accessible. It is named after Maggie Jencks, a writer, gardener and designer, from Edinburgh who used her own experience of cancer treatment to create a new way of support for all those involved in the diagnosis. The first Maggies Centre was opened in 1996 in Edinburgh.

The Dundee Centre was the third, but the first new build, commissioned by the cancer support organisation following a design competition won by Frank Gerry. It was opened in 2003 and was the Royal Fine Art Commission’s Building of the Year in 2004. There is a design model of the building in V&A Dundee Scottish design exhibition. A small garden attached to the building and a labyrinth set in the ground nearby, beside the helipad is an important part of the ethos of the organisation.

In 2018 the Maggies Centre had a Penguin Trail through Dundee, which was great fun with many of us, young and old, going round them all in their various locations through that summer. At the end the penguins were sold to raise money for the charity. One was given back to them which we have in our garden and he watches over us as we work in the garden.

Text and photos by Christina Howie

Other blogs in the series are Episode 1- Ninewells Hospital and Episode 3- Invergowrie House

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