We are pleased to announce that an Evening with Terry Waite CBE was a success in commemorating our past Honorary Secretary David Wilkinson. The event brought together over 200 people, most of whom were friends and family of David, and the evening itself raised £11,247.40 for Hostage International and the neuroendocrine research at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Our chairman, John Smith writes…
The magnificent surroundings of The Merchant Taylors Hall in the City of London played host on 14th May 2019 to over 200 people who arrived to spend an evening with Terry Waite CBE. The event was organised to recognise and commemorate David “Withers” Wilkinson, the recently deceased Honorary Secretary of Hostage International, the charity established by Terry Waite and Carlo Laurenzi to provide practical and pastoral support to the families of hostages and to returning hostages. David was Honorary Secretary for some eight years and contributed hugely to the charity’s development during that period, providing wise counsel and keenly focused thought, tempered with a quiet but wicked sense of humour.
During his time with Hostage International David was a senior partner at Kennedys, the global law firm, and was based in their London offices. He retired in 2018. Kennedys generously sponsored the evening and Michael Hogg, a senior partner acted as master of ceremonies. As Hostage International operates virtually and does not have physical office space, Kennedys have also frequently provided meeting rooms for board meetings and training. We are grateful also to the Master and Court of The Merchant Taylors Hall for their generosity in allowing us to use the Hall and for the efficiency and professionalism of their Beadle and staff who made the evening run so smoothly.
David remained dedicated to his work at Hostage International, dealing with paperwork until just a couple of days before he died from neuroendocrine cancer. As a consequence, and with the help and guidance of David’s wife, Caroline Wilkinson, we decided that all proceeds from the evening should be shared equally between the Neuroendocrine Cancer Research Project at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Hostage International.
Arrivals for the lecture were greeted by Caroline and their children, Kate and Stuart Wilkinson: it was clear that many of the attendees were very well known to the Wilkinson family, especially those who had played golf, cricket, tennis or rugby opposite David (we understand they frequently lost) or those particularly close friends who had been the subject of his penchant for practical jokes. As it was a fine, warm spring evening everyone was able to enjoy their drinks and canapés outside in the Hall’s superb courtyard which has been on the same site since 1347, looking up towards the surrounding 20thand 21stcentury glass skyscrapers of the City of London.
Michael Hogg opened the batting with stories of David’s time at Kennedys and introduced Lara Symons, Director of Hostage International who talked about the work of Hostage International and David’s part in it. Dr. Naureen Starling, Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital then told us about this rare form of cancer and what is being done to counter it.
Terry Waite spoke about David and about his own experiences both as a hostage and as a hostage negotiator – it is sometimes forgotten that Terry started his humanitarian work in this field in Idi Amin’s Uganda and also dealt successfully with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iran before becoming involved in trying to free Brian Keenan and John McCarthy from captivity in Lebanon which led to his own kidnap and four and a half years of as a hostage. As ever, he made light of his own experiences and clearly retains his belief in the essential humanity in most of the world’s population despite it all. As he says, he’s met some of the worst people in the world but is fortunate to work with some of the best.
Finally, Caroline Wilkinson talked briefly about David and thanked Terry and everyone present for everything they had done to make the evening a success. We are delighted to say that the event raised £11247.40 shared equally between the Neuroendocrine Research Project at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Hostage International.
Although Hostage International assists families and former hostages around the world, it is a tiny charity. We have only two members of staff and the majority of their time is spent on casework; our 12 trustees (five of whom also handle cases) and our caseworkers are all unpaid volunteers as are the many others who help us in many and various ways. Kidnapping is a horrific experience, affecting not only the individual but the family. Only those who have experienced it in some way can really understand all of the effects on people’s lives. We, and I’m sure the Royal Marsden Hospital join me in this, are hugely grateful to all who bought tickets to attend and/or made incredibly generous donations.
Finally, our thanks to Kennedys, especially Michael Hogg, Annette Budd (David’s long term PA and friend) and Kate MacLachlan and her team who helped and contributed so much, also to our own band of helpers who give us unfailing support. It would not have been possible without the wholehearted involvement and encouragement of Caroline and we trust that it in some small way demonstrated the respect and affection we all had for David.