Leaders at St Paul’s Cathedral last night praised the ‘overwhelming support’ shown by Daily Mail readers for the drive to create a new national memorial to Britain’s Covid victims.
Readers have given more than £115,000 towards the memorial since the Mail launched the Remember Me campaign to help build it at the weekend, smashing the £100,000 milestone in less than 72 hours.
The cathedral is planning a magnificent new entrance and chapel with screens showing a virtual book of remembrance immortalising the names and pictures of those lost to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is hoped the memorial – which will be open to those of any faith or none and will feature a grand oak portico engraved with the words ‘Remember Me’ – will become an important place of pilgrimage for generations to come.
Healthcare assistant Becky Regan, 29, died in February after contracting Covid while pregnant with her fourth child, baby Jasmine
The cathedral’s Director of Development Nicky Wynne said the community at St Paul’s had been left feeling ‘humbled and honoured’ by the generosity of Mail readers, more than 3,000 of whom have already contributed.
She said: ‘Bringing the Remember Me online Book of Memorial into St Paul’s is so important to so many. On behalf of the St Paul’s community I am humbled and honoured by the overwhelming support of the Daily Mail and you, its readers.
NHS heroine, 29, never met her baby daughter
Tracey Buckland, 54, is now raising three-month-old Jasmine after losing her daughter Becky to Covid
Healthcare assistant Becky Regan was 28 weeks pregnant with her fourth child and had been working at North Tyneside Hospital when she was struck down with Covid.
As her health had deteriorated quickly, doctors were forced to prematurely deliver baby Jasmine by emergency C-section. But before the 29-year-old mother could even meet her baby girl – who weighed less than 3lb – she tragically passed away a week later on February 1.
Her devastated mother Tracey Buckland, 54, who is now raising three-month-old Jasmine, said: ‘My daughter was just 29, she was a mother and her children needed her. It is heartbreaking. The children say that their mum is an NHS hero… they are proud of her.’
Miss Regan, from Blyth in Northumberland, also leaves behind her older daughters Sophie, ten, Stacey, eight, and three-year-old Connie, who are being cared for by her partner.
The grandmother and her husband gave up their jobs and home in London to move closer so she could take care of Jasmine and be near to the girls.
Backing the campaign, Mrs Buckland added: ‘I don’t want Becky to just die and be forgotten about. When Jasmine is older, the Covid pandemic will hopefully be a distant memory. A permanent memorial will help her understand the magnitude of what happened.’
‘Thanks to you, the £100,000 milestone was reached in a staggering 72 hours from 3,093 supporters!’
Prince Charles, the Prime Minister and bereaved families are among those to have already given their heartfelt backing to the Mail’s drive to help raise the £2.3million needed to create the commemorative space.
Since the campaign launched on Saturday, grieving relatives have contacted St Paul’s in droves to add tributes to more than 900 lost loved ones to the virtual book of remembrance.
The book – which was launched online last year – now contains poignant stories of 8,175 people who lost their lives, directly or indirectly, to Covid.
Each victim’s story is dealt with individually by St Paul’s Remember Me moderators who support their bereaved loved ones throughout the process.
Its Crowdfunder page has also seen donations flood in from people grieving the loss of relatives who are sadly among more than 127,500 people to have died in the pandemic.
Almost £99,000 plus £17,000 in Gift Aid has been given online in the last three days, bringing the total already raised by St Paul’s to just over £555,000.
Winifred Whitehead, who lost her husband, was among more than 2,000 people to claim one of the Mail’s limited edition Remember Me candles, pictured left, after making a donation of more than £25.
‘This is a lovely idea. I lost my husband of 61 years last year and it has been so hard. I shall cherish this candle forever,’ she wrote.
Bereaved mother Barbara Curno is also among those to give. She said: ‘Donated in memory of my son Geoff Curno who had Down syndrome and died from this terrible virus in January.
‘I hope to be able to visit the physical memorial to remember him and all who suffered.’
Diane Jayes, who lost her 42-year-old sister, added: ‘This project really makes me feel happy that there will be a physical memorial to her and all the others lost to this disease.’
Catherine Hendrick said: ‘I lost my kind, lovely dad to Covid and I think this is a special way to remember all the precious people who’ve been taken by this disease and show that each one is more than just a statistic.’
Judith Eileen Nicholls, whose husband was among those who indirectly lost their lives to the virus only seven weeks ago, said: ‘His appointments kept being cancelled and he couldn’t see a doctor. In a roundabout way Covid was responsible for his death.
‘So much pain and suffering for so many people, it is only right that there should be a memorial.’
It is free to add an entry for a loved one to the virtual book of remembrance, while the physical memorial that displays tributes on screens will also be free to enter.
The philanthropist behind the plan to remember loved ones
By Robert Hardman
Over the years, he has been banging the drum for everything from the National Theatre (where an auditorium bears the family name) and the Royal Opera House to medical research and young people (he is chairman of Prince’s Trust International).
Sir Lloyd Dorfman, founder of the Travelex currency exchange (which he sold in 2014), is seldom short of ideas. So after Britain went into lockdown last year, St Paul’s Cathedral sought his advice. The philanthropist and businessman had already supported Westminster Abbey’s efforts to raise funds for its Diamond Jubilee Galleries.
Now the coronavirus was forcing St Paul’s to close its doors to the tourists – up to a million of them each year – who traditionally keep the place afloat. At the same time, Wren’s great cathedral also wanted to play its part.
‘Almost as an afterthought, they mentioned this virtual Book of Remembrance and I thought it was brilliant – just what we needed,’ says Sir Lloyd. ‘This is not any church. This is St Paul’s, it’s part of all our history, whatever your faith. Think of how it stood as a symbol of defiance during the Second World War. It is the perfect place to build the national memorial. I’m Jewish and I’m as passionate about it as anyone.’
Sir Lloyd Dorfman, with a model of the Covid memorial, provided a substantial six-figure sum towards designing and creating the website along
He provided a substantial six-figure sum towards designing and creating the website along with the staff required to get it off the ground.
Within just five weeks, the new website was ready and people could start to include their loved ones. A cousin has already registered an entry for Sir Lloyd’s aunt, Fay Laub, who died early in the pandemic, in the virtual Book of Remembrance.
Surveying the site of the new memorial portico and the adjacent commemorative area in the North Transept, Sir Lloyd is full of enthusiasm for the next phase of this great project. ‘Everyone will be welcome here so now we need to fund the physical memorial too,’ he says. The public will be able to enter the ‘Remember Me’ area of the cathedral free of charge.
They can then gather their thoughts and view the Book of Remembrance in the Middlesex Chapel. This is named after the Middlesex Regiment, which was disbanded in the Sixties when it was absorbed into what is now the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
By sheer coincidence, Sir Lloyd is also a very proud Honorary Colonel of its Third Battalion. ‘It’s the right place and right time,’ he says firmly. ‘We just need to get on with it.’
Catholic, Muslim and Jewish leaders back Mail’s campaign
By Martin Beckford
Religious groups across Britain united to hail the Covid memorial as a fitting way to remember those lost during the pandemic.
Senior figures in Catholic, Muslim and Jewish organisations from around the country are all backing the Mail’s campaign to establish a commemorative space inside St Paul’s.
Their comments illustrate the support for the Remember Me campaign from those of all faiths and none, following on from endorsements by major Sikh and Hindu groups for the project started by leading clergy in the Church of England.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the most senior Roman Catholic in England and Wales, said: ‘We are living through a pandemic which will long stay in all of our memories. Its trauma has rocked every aspect of our lives. Generations to come will look back at this period of devastation, and we wish for them to remember and pray for those who died.
‘A national monument will help this to be the case.’
The president of the Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, Bishop Hugh Gilbert, added: ‘A healthy society is a society with a memory. In supporting this memorial for all who have died as a result of Covid, I commend them and all the bereaved into the merciful hands of God our Father.’
Zara Mohammed, the first female secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: ‘It is not only a fitting tribute to honour and remember those who have lost their lives, but also to remember the sacrifices people have made to fight this deadly pandemic.’
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – the historic organisation known as the voice of the British Jewish community, said: ‘The Jewish community, in common with many others, have suffered a heavy death toll during the pandemic. A permanent memorial and a virtual book of remembrance will be a fitting way to remember the many friends and family members taken before their time by this dreadful disease.’
And the Right Reverend Dr Martin Fair, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: ‘We recognise the very human need for a memorial to those we have lost through the Covid-19 pandemic.’
What is the plan?
To create a memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral to those who died as a result of the pandemic, whether direct victims of Covid or those whose medical treatment was disrupted by lockdown restrictions. The memorial will let people of any faith pay their respects to family and friends at a permanent site.
How will it work?
St Paul’s has set up Remember Me – an online book of remembrance. Anyone wishing to remember a loved one can submit, free of charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of their loved one at www.rememberme2020.uk
At least four virtual books of remembrance will be installed in the cathedral’s Middlesex Chapel. Visitors will be able to light candles or simply sit in contemplation.
The memorial will be in a newly built wooden portico, set in the north transept of the cathedral, away from the busier main doors
Where will it be?
A newly built wooden portico will be set in the north transept of the cathedral, away from the busier main doors. Entrance will be free. It will sit on the site of an earlier hallway which was destroyed by a Luftwaffe bomb in 1941.
Alongside works of non-religious art, the words ‘Remember Me’ will be written in all the main languages of the UK. Visitors will walk through the portico to reach the remembrance area in the Middlesex Chapel.
How much is needed?
£2.3million. Of this, £1.13million is needed to pay for the portico and £670,000 to run the exhibition for two years. Money is needed for the preparatory design work, symbolic artwork and signage. The hope is to open it in March 2022 for the second anniversary of the pandemic. Around £440,000 has already been raised.
Any money raised over the £2.3m required will be used in a variety of ways to help preserve the memorial.
St Paul’s has set up Remember Me – an online book of remembrance. Anyone wishing to remember a loved one can submit, free of charge, the name, photograph and a short message in honour of their loved one
Is it part of Mail Force?
No, the Mail is supporting the St Paul’s Cathedral Foundation to raise funds for the memorial.
Is this the official national memorial?
There are no other current plans for a national memorial. What started as an online St Paul’s memorial, backed by the Prince of Wales and all major faith leaders, has now turned into a project for a physical and living memorial inside the cathedral.
How can you donate?
Go to crowdfunder.co.uk/rememberme. You can donate any sum you like but the first 5,000 people to donate online using the special £25 ‘Limited Edition Candle from the Daily Mail’ button will receive a free Remember Me frankincense scented candle funded by the Mail. By clicking this button, you will have the option of adding a larger sum. Donors using the ‘£50 Reward’ button will receive a year’s free membership to St Paul’s Cathedral, worth £30. Regrettably, donations made by cheque will not be eligible for the free candle or St Paul’s membership.
Make cheques payable to St Paul’s Cathedral Foundation and send it to Remember Me, Chapter House, St Paul’s Churchyard, London, EC4M 8AD. To boost your donation by 25p of Gift Aid for every £1 you donate, please fill in and cut out the form and add this to your envelope.