Roosevelt Memorial (Polio) Fund

An extract from “The History of Crossbasket Castle” by Paul Veverka

imagesThis charity was named in honour of the late American President who died during WW2. Franklin. D. Roosevelt (pictured in Figure 50 in this book). Roosevelt spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair.  The polio virus, which infected him in 1921 at the age of 39, left him with almost no use of his legs.  Twelve years later, following a term as Governor of New York, he became President of the United States and went on to save the country from economic calamity, and the world from Hitler, before passing away just before the end of WW2. The Roosevelt Memorial (Polio) Fund, hereafter known as RMPF, operated from 113 St. Vincent Street in Glasgow.

Poliomyelitis (Polio) has existed as long as human society, but became a major public health issue in late Victorian times with major epidemics in Europe and the United States. The disease, which causes spinal and respiratory paralysis, can kill and remains incurable but vaccines have assisted in its almost total eradication today.

1916 – New York experienced the first large epidemic, with more than 9,000 cases and 2,343 deaths. The 1916 toll nationwide was 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. Children were particularly affected.

1952 – A major breakthrough came when Dr Jonas Salk began to develop the first effective vaccine against polio. Mass public vaccination programmes followed and had an immediate effect.

1957 – In the US alone cases fell from 35,000 in 1953 to 5,300.

1961 – Albert Sabin pioneered the more easily administered oral polio vaccine. Despite the availability of vaccines polio remained a threat, with 707 acute cases and 79 deaths in the UK as late as 1961.

1962 – Britain switched to Sabin’s OPV vaccine, in line with most countries in the developed world and started rolling this out to schoolchildren.

1963 – On 9th February 1963 the ‘Trustees of Agnes Little’ carved up the estate by selling Crossbasket Castle to “The Roosevelt Memorial (Polio) Fund”, RMPD a memorial trust in its own right regard who established the “James Little Polio Trust” to treat suffers of that terrible disease. There were exclusions which were not sold to Roosevelt Memorial Fund. Jane Little was to continue living in 3 apartments in the East side of the Castle. Her sister, Elizabeth Little was to continue living in the 4 apartments of the Tower, or keep and own that part outright. The three satellite properties on the estate, still being leased by Agnes Meikle, Roderick Bruce and David Minto Coke were to continue being leased, without intervention or ownership of Roosevelt. New rents and gratuities were set.

Unusually, the proceeds received by “The Trustees of Agnes Little” for the sale of Crossbasket Castle, were then officially donated to the RMPD. In this roundabout fashion, RMPD was donated Crossbasket Castle.

(c) 2017 Paul Veverka

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