Bill Ward and St Luke's at Christmas

Bill Ward and St Luke's at Christmas
Type of post: Barbershop news item
Sub-type: No sub-type
Posted By: Phil Gill
Status: Current
Date Posted: Wed, 20 Dec 2023
As Hallmark members gather at St Luke's Hospice to sing for patients and staff on Christmas morning, we will be remembering Bill Ward who died recently.  Bill was present every year until ill-health prevented him from attending just a few years ago.  He was a key figure on these occasions, not only because of his sunny, warm disposition, but also because he preserved a long-standing tradition of commemorating former colleagues who had attended in earlier times.  Bill wrote about this tradition in 2016, and it seems fitting to share his words with you now as a tribute to a lovely man.  

Thanks to Paul Howard for supplying Bill's text and the images below. 


By Bill Ward – Honorary Life Member. Written December 2016.

I believe it was in the early 1980’s that St Luke’s Hospice opened in Sheffield.

Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club had started a few years before that, and according to our past Chairman the late Tony Foster DECEMBER 2016 will be our 37th consecutive year singing on Christmas morning at St. Luke’s.
(See Hallmark Herald Feb.2008.)

Somehow, our Secretary at the time- the remarkable Martin Hill, liaised with the founder of St. Luke’s, Professor Wilkes, and enquired about singing at Christmas. It was decided (with some trepidation I might add) to sing on Christmas morning for an hour.

No one knew how many singing members would or could turn up on the day. We were also in a dilemma - WHAT to sing! We sang Barbershop songs which, at that time singing up tempo songs in a hospice seemed inappropriate.

We sought advice from Professor Wilkes. “Sing from your usual repertoire” he said. So we went ahead and some 30 singers turned up on that Christmas morning.  Young men with families, older members, our singers travelling from outside the city to take part. We were amazed. We sang a few Christmas Carols and songs and some ‘Jolson favourites ‘too. So everything went well, and we had our first taste of what hospice life was like. Everyone has learned SO much more since those days, and attitudes have changed also, to the wonderful work that St. Luke’s does for the community. That was it. Then…Christmas approached again…we decided to give St. Luke’s another go…We did…then another year… and another, and somehow TIME FLIES…and almost before we knew it we were presented with a silver plaque for attending St Luke’s on Christmas morning for 25 years…absolutely amazing! Since then we have been for many more years (must be nearing 40!)

It has become a bit of a tradition that during one of the Christmas songs…usually ‘Have yourself a merry, little Christmas’, but any appropriate song will do, that the silver plaque is held up to commemorate the past members who have sung over the years on Christmas morning…what a tradition!!!!

Thanks to all the St. Luke’s staff over the years for making us SO welcome