• The British Polio Fellowship

Fellowship patron Joe Fisher celebrates 100th birthday

Life-long campaigner and British Polio Fellowship patron, Joe Fisher celebrates his 100th birthday today, 29 June.

Joe was a leading light for the British Polio Fellowship nationally and in the Newcastle branch. He was National Vice-Chairman for many years and has held several important roles.

In 2015, he was awarded an MBE in recognition of over 60 years of dedicated service to the charity and in particular to the North-East Region.

Joe contracted polio age 23, while serving in Myanmar, Burma as a junior officer in the British army during the Second World War. By the time he returned to England in 1946, the war was over and he was almost completely disabled and paralysed down one side of his body. Thankfully he recovered some movement.

Age 26, Joe joined the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship (now the British Polio Fellowship) and was soon asked to build up the membership in Newcastle. He placed an advert locally and invited anyone interested to meet him at the YMCA. Around 70 people turned up and in 1947 the Newcastle Branch of the Infantile Paralysis Fellowship was formed, with Joe as its Chair. The branch soon grew to over 100 members.

Jobs were hard to find for disabled people after the Second World War unless they had skills or training, which gave Joe an idea. He always argued: “Just because we had polio, there is nothing wrong with our brains and we could do something- given a chance.”

In 1954, the Branch Committee led by Joe, bought a large house in Jesmond with its own grounds. The property was converted to a hostel and training centre and on 22 September 1956, it opened its doors to polio survivors to learn important work and life skills.

The Newcastle project went on to take over the business of distributing Christmas cards for the British Polio Fellowship and all the equipment was moved to the North-East, where 30 polio-disabled people were employed full-time.

Talking about the British Polio Fellowship, Joe said: “The British Polio Fellowship was named purposely as a Fellowship. It was always to be run by people with polio, for people with polio. It obviously has to go beyond that due to its size, but that remains the essential point…. We are raising money to help people similarly affected. The charity has always managed to retain that and I don’t think we have lost it to this day. This is unique”.

Happy 100th Birthday Joe from everyone at the Fellowship.

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