Downton Abbey star backs Oban family’ appeal

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Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville is backing a ‘last resort’ patient transport fund set up in memory of an Oban woman.

The actor, best-known for playing the Earl of Grantham in the historical TV drama, posted the Justgiving details for North Argyll Carers Centre’ Cherish Fund on social media after being contacted by a friend of Alyson Bowman’s family.

The star also made a personal donation to the fund that helps transport patients to vital medical appointments when all other options have been exhausted.

Mum-of-two and former Oban High School pupil Alyson Bowman was just 33 when she lost a two-year battle with stomach cancer in 2007.

The Cherish Fund was started by her parents Jean and John Bowman who wanted to help other people avoid ‘a very difficult’ journey back from a hospital appointment that their daughter experienced just before her death.

The couple, who used to run Kilmelford’s Shower of Herring restaurant and bar and now live in North Connel, are having a second go at raising funds with a book signed by all the cast of Downton Abbey. The Chronicles of Downton Abbey was given to them by a guest Charmian Adam who stayed with them when they ran a B&B and was involved with the making of the hit series.

Over the years since Alyson’s death, her parents have raised more than £42,000 for the fund but an earlier attempt to auction off  the autographed book at Glasgow auctioneers McTears did not meet the reserve price.

In the hope of boosting funds, the book is now being raffled off on justgiving.com/fundraising/north-argyll-carers-centre-cherish-fund-oban.

‘Luckily I’d put a reserve on it. There was only one bid and that was £270. We thought we’d get more for it in Oban but we’ve had it here ever since,’ said Mrs Bowman.

People who make a donation on the Justgiving page by December 11 will automatically get the chance of winning the book with the lucky winner being announced the next day.

So far donations on the page have made more than £500 doubling the highest auction bid but Mrs Bowman is hoping to get more. The suggested minimum donation is £2.

It was the Bowman’s friend, Lia Crolla, who messaged Hugh Bonneville to see if he could help.

She said: ‘I saw Hugh had 75,000 followers in America and Australia on social media and thought it might help if he put it on his links. I just messaged him and then an ‘efficient elf’ put it up for us. Soon after a £50 donation appeared on the Justgiving page from a Hugh B, so I’m assuming it was him.

‘It’s a super prize, especially seeing as the film’s just been out. It’s got Hugh’s and Maggie Smith’s autographs in it as well as others in the cast – I want to win it!

Mrs Bowman said: ‘The hospital here does its best, but for specialist treatment people need to go to Glasgow. When someone is so fragile or someone is nearing the end of their life, it’s not an easy journey to make if they can’t get themselves there, if they don’t have the where-with-all  or don’t have a car. If all else fails and they’ve tried Patient Transport and the Red Cross, they can get transport through North Argyll Carers helped by the Cherish Fund but it is only a small fund and can only to be used as a last resort and only so many times. It has also helped some young carers get to respite they need.

‘Alyson was a mum at 17, she gave us two beautiful granddaughters. We set up The Cherish Fund as a legacy for her because she’s not had a full time on Earth. We are doing it for her and are hoping good will come from it.’

More than 100 people have been helped with transport to get to medical appointments and get respite since the fund received it’s first application in April 2014.