As Linda Fabiani said, in recent years we have debated Marie Curie’s great daffodil appeal annually. My memory is not as good as it used to be, but I recall that I have had the opportunity to take part in at least some of those debates. Indeed, I am fond of reminding colleagues that I think that I was the first MSP to host a Marie Curie blooming great tea party, with very kind donations of home baking. I will get that boast out of the way, because I am a modest sort of guy.
I thank Edward Mountain for sharing his story from his background—others may do the same. It was very moving.
I will recognise the origins of this fantastic charity in a slightly different way from others. A hospital in Hampstead named after Marie Curie was completed in 1930 and opened by the then Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. The hospital specialised in radiological treatment for women who suffered from a range of diseases, including cancer. The committee involved decided to retain the name Marie Curie in the charitable medical field. By 1950, the appeal that was launched had raised £30,000 and the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation was born. Today it is known simply as Marie Curie.
We recently celebrated international women’s day, which is a tribute to the power and contribution of women across the globe. One of those important women was certainly Marie Sklodowska Curie. Born in Poland, she became a French citizen by marriage. She was a Nobel prize-winning physicist—the first woman to win the award.
Marie Curie developed the theory of radioactivity, discovered polonium and radium—as Rona Mackay rightly pointed out—and developed them for use in mobile radiography units for troops during the first world war. However, her passion killed her. In 1934, at the age of 66, she died in France from an auto-immune disease that was caused by overexposure to radiation during her research. She was a truly remarkable woman, and it is fitting that the charity that we are celebrating today carries her name as it conducts its vital work for people.
We are all aware of the work that the Marie Curie charity carries out in our constituencies and regions. All of us will know someone who goes through an end-of-life experience. That experience does not just affect one person but is a very difficult situation for the entire family. Marie Curie staff provide help and advice to people who are going through those experiences. The nurses provide free one-to-one nursing for patients with terminal illnesses, which can be overnight or even at very short notice—it is a very flexible service, reflecting the often unpredictable nature of terminal illness.
For many people, just knowing that the support is there is a great comfort. The families of terminally ill loved ones, who are juggling their own lives while sorting out the lives of their loved ones, also find the support a great help at that crucial time. I suspect that the Marie Curie services of its nurses will be required in this country and other places over the next few weeks, and probably in a way in which they have never been required for some time, as a result of the coronavirus. I will be thinking about the nurses, as they help us through the difficult days to come.
I will say a little about local fundraising. In my constituency, Marie Curie is blessed with a strong base of volunteers who raise funds from members of the public. The Stirling fundraising group has raised £42,000 since 2013—they are the fantastic volunteers who Linda Fabiani was quite right to concentrate on in her speech—through the efforts of the Marie Curie shop on the high street and fundraising activities in local supermarkets. They will be at Stirling farmers market in April.
Everyone deserves dignity and respect in their final days and hours. We should all consider what we can do to help through the great daffodil appeal. I thank everyone who is involved in the Marie Curie organisation for their amazing work.