Pensioner secretly gave £1 million to charity

The woman left �100,000 to her local lifeboat, among her other donations. Picture: TSPL
The woman left �100,000 to her local lifeboat, among her other donations. Picture: TSPL
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A FORMER nurse, who bought her clothes from Oxfam and lived off her pension, secretly gave more than £1 million to good causes over the course of her life.

Frances Reed’s generosity only came to light three years after her death, following the transfer of a £100,000 legacy to the RNLI lifeboat in Oban, where she had lived.

The philanthropist set up The Harebell Centenary Trust Fund in 1991 to distribute cash inherited from her parents anonymously, telling financial advisors that she did not need it.

Most of the donations, which the trust confirmed have topped £1m, drew little attention as they amounted to only a few thousand pounds at a time.

But the full extent of her generosity was revealed when fund trustee Angela Fossick visited Oban Lifeboat Station earlier this week to unveil a plaque to mark the £100,000 donation which was one of the pensioner’s last wishes.

Les Stewart, Oban Lifeboat Treasurer, said the station was indebted to her and the cash would help to save lives at sea.

“In all the 23 years I have been treasurer of this lifeboat station, we have never received anything even remotely near this amount of money,” he said.

Ms Reed, who was 84 when she died, moved to a modest house in Dalriach Road, Oban, after she retired as a senior 
nursing tutor at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, more than 20 years ago. She shunned modern things, and friends told how she turned the clock back 60 years by converting her house to include an old fashioned sink, pantry and scullery.

She led such a simple life, managing on her hospital pension, that no-one suspected the only child had inherited a fortune from her parents, which she invested to help others.

Mrs Fossick said: “She called it the Harebell Fund because she didn’t want people to know her name. She led a very simple life in Oban.”