Medical Mission Sisters in the UK
Healing Presence at the Heart of a Wounded World
Fundraising from sale of stamps
How it all began - by John Dixon
It all started in the sixties; the sisters' convent was located in Westoe Village, South Shields. Being a member of the town's philatelic society, I was intrigued to hear that stamps were sold by the sisters. So, one Monday morning, as an insurance agent with time on my side, I cycled to the house.
On knocking, the door was opened by one of the sisters. On enquiring about the stamps I was shown to a large refectory table where a huge sack of stamps was placed. Being a keen stamp collector, all thoughts of work disappeared. Five or six hours later I had amassed a sizeable heap in the middle of the table. As my wage at that time was approximately £12 per week, it was with some trepidation that I asked the price. The sister mentioned £1; then seeing the look of astonishment on my face she amended the figure to 10 shillings. I quickly assured her I expected the sum to be more than the original £1. I paid the pound, but asked if I might sell any surplus from those purchased to other members of the club. The following week I returned to the convent with over £3! The sister said that this was more than they had received from the dealer, from which they had to deduct postage. She then asked if I could continue to raise funds in this way. Loving and obsessed with stamp collecting, you can guess the answer; and so began my long association with the sisters.I believe that in the first year we raised the princely sum of £25! This was to rise over the years to reach £2,000 annually. In today's climate of fax machines and emails, this figure has been reduced and, even not admitting to it, age has also entered the equation.
How is the money raised? - you may ask. The main source is of course the many donors who have supplied the stamps over the years, from small amounts to large bags of material. This material is sorted, foreign from British - foreign gives the best revenue. Then, when I can persuade my wife against bathing, the stamps are floated from the paper in the bath. After drying on an assortment of towels, the foreign stamps are sorted into countries, placed in booklets, priced and sold at the various clubs around the north east of England. We also hold an auction at our society twice a year. This helps to clear old stock that has been the rounds. The British stamps are sorted into special issues and common material. The ordinary issues are sold in bulk, bringing in £20 per sack. The special issues are graded; the best grades are the ones stamped with a circular date stamp. These are made into sets and also sold round the clubs.
The condition of some of the material creates some hilarious moments. Living in a small flat originally, much of the work was done on the floor in the bedroom. On one occasion the material was delivered in hot water bottle covers, the smell of which left a lot to be desired, so face masks were the order of the day. The stamps had encroached everywhere, the floor, the bed, everything was covered. At about 3am I realised that my wife was missing. She had resorted to the settee in the living room. You may be able to imagine the scene for her being woken up from a deep sleep by a masked figure bending over her. I mention this little anecdote to give you some idea of her long suffering ordeal being married to a stamp mad husband. Her input and support in this fundraising has been invaluable. I feel honoured by the fact that she agreed to be my wife more than fifty years ago.
I could go on boring you with the various tales but as a last word, I remember when I first mentioned the convent and sale of stamps. Some of my colleagues were rather critical of the sisters and their lifestyle, saying perhaps they were a little mad. After meeting them and seeing how dedicated they were in their work, I realised that it was the people outside the convent walls that most needed a psychiatrist.
Please send your used stamps (foreign and British commemorative only) or any unwanted collections directly to: Mr John Dixon, 97 Reading Road, South Shields, NE33 4SF
Please leave a small margin around stamps
Please note the new Royal Mail size guide for dimensions and weights of letter and packets
Sister Lynne Rooker
South Shields, 1966
John and Joan Dixon sorting stamps