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Terry Waite opens clinic 30 years late after hostage ordeal

Terry Waite Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Terry Waite was due to open the Ravensbourne block at the hospital in January 1987.

Terry Waite has opened a hospital's new care centre almost 30 years after plans for him to open a unit were disrupted when he was taken hostage in Lebanon.

The former envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury was due to open the Ravensbourne block at the University Hospital Lewisham in January 1987.

But he was taken hostage in Beirut while trying to negotiate the release of British journalist John McCarthy and other western hostages.

He spent five years in captivity.

Mr Waite, who is president of homeless charity Emmaus UK and lives in nearby Blackheath, opened the new £1.2m care centre at University Hospital Lewisham.


Plot of the plaque

Image caption Hospital caretaker Alan Harrison kept the plaque safe for 30 years after Terry Waite was taken hostage in 1987

The original plaque that Mr Waite was due to unveil in 1987 will also be handed back to the hospital after it was discovered in a village pub near Colchester.

The plaque was kept safe by hospital caretaker Alan Harrison who worked at Lewisham hospital for 30 years.

Mr Harrison's granddaughter Francesca Harrison told BBC London the hospital "were simply going to throw the plaque away".

He gave the plaque to his daughter Beverley Wright, who went on to become the landlady at The Anchor pub in the village of Rowhedge.

Eckhard Prolingheuer, a community manager for at the Colchester centre of Mr Waite's charity Emmaus, discovered the plaque had been saved during a chance conversation at the pub.


Mr Waite said: "It was such a lovely surprise to be invited to open the new Lewisham Ambulatory Care Centre.

"I was due to open the Ravensbourne Block in 1987; however, my capture meant that I didn't ever make it to the event.

"It's a real honour to be invited to open this excellent facility."

The new centre has been developed as part of a major emergency care improvement programme by Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

It will provide early testing such as X-Ray and ultrasound for local people in an outpatient setting, with results reviewed by specialist consultants.

Elizabeth Butler, chair of Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, said: "We were delighted to welcome Terry Waite to open this important new facility and it was wonderful for all the staff to meet him."


Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Terry Waite was taken hostage just days after this photo was taken after he went to Lebanon to negotiate the release of John McCarthy and other western captives.

Who is Terry Waite?

  • Terry Waite, 77, is a British humanitarian and author.
  • He joined the Anglican Church Army, a social welfare organisation modelled on the Salvation Army in the 1960s and pursued a career as a layman within the Church of England.
  • By the 1980s he was working as a special envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • As the Archbishop's envoy he travelled around the Middle East to negotiate the release of western captives who had been taken hostage.
  • Mr Waite was active in hostage negotiations in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. But he, himself, was eventually targeted and taken hostage on 20 January 1987.
  • Terry Waite was eventually released from captivity five years later on 18 November 1991.

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