Heather Ward hits £100,000 with Namesake

A retired pub landlady who had the idea of naming buses for charity has finally called time after 24 years of fundraising for Derby’s breast cancer unit reached £100,000.

And to mark the occasion, Heather Ward was surprised at Royal Derby Hospital by having a trentbarton bus named after her, in thanks for all her inspirational work. The bus will be on the popular Derby-Chesterfield comet route.

Back in 1991 Heather Ward, then the landlady of the Black Swan in Idridgehay, was moved by how her customers’ lives had been affected by the illness. Heather, a bus enthusiast, teamed up with trentbarton so each of its new buses could be named in return for a £100 donation. Every penny given to the new Namesake appeal would go Derby’s breast scanner unit. The very first bus was named after Derby florist Wendy Glendinning who had a shop at Derby Bus Station. Wendy was sadly to lose her battle with breast cancer but she was followed by more and more people, clubs and businesses in naming buses.

Heather’s initial target was £5,000 but Namesake rolled on past that, and many other targets too. Hundreds of trentbarton buses have been named, including many in remembrance of the bus company’s own colleagues and friends. Now that Namesake has reached the £100,000 milestone, Heather, 75, who lives in Stretton, is to take a back seat on the bus naming initiative which trentbarton is to combine with its own Charity of the Year activity.

Heather said: “One story that sticks in my mind is the lady who caught a bus to go a few stops, only to find she had got on the one she had named after her late husband. She was only going to Alfreton but stayed on the bus all the way to Nottingham and back, and said ‘I spent all afternoon with him’. 

“Lots of the buses have been named after loved ones, often in lieu of funeral flowers. But the names have also been for well dressings, hospital wards, Rotary and Lions clubs, sports teams – and the four ‘Golden Girls’ secretaries at trentbarton in 1992.

“I started a scrapbook in 1991 to keep newspaper reports and letters about Namesake. I now have ten scrapbooks. It is lovely to look back at them and remember things like the second bus being blessed at a church.

“One of the reasons I think Namesake was successful was that every single penny went to the unit. The money and what it paid for were the important thing, but what I found personally rewarding was meeting so many lovely people. Naming a bus gave many of them a lot of comfort.”

Namesake’s donations have been invested in a range of medical equipment and services since 1991. Most recently the money has gone towards a digital mammogram, computer aided diagnosis and a 3-D X-ray unit which has enabled Derby to participate in national research.

Ken Scott of Derby Hospitals Charity said: “What Heather has achieved, with so many donations from so many generous people, is phenomenal. Derby’s breast cancer unit and countless women have benefitted from the wonderful Namesake.”

trentbarton chairman Brian King said: “Heather a truly remarkable lady and Namesake is a remarkable story about how people have been able to support the wonderful work of the breast cancer unit.”