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Secret royal invitation followed 1978 tragedy.

LESLIE and Dorothy Harris, caretakers of the Catherine de Barnes isolation hospital, were deeply affected by Janet Parker's death and quarantined for a long period.

Their daughter, Sue Bignell said her parents felt a personal connection with Janet and responsibility towards her.

The Harrises later received a surprise royal invitation which seems to have been sent them as a thank-you for their sterling role during the smallpox crisis.

Sue, who passed away earlier this year, said: "It was a big thing for my mum and dad especially my dad, he was so proud of it. And he got really dressed up, a new suit and my mum did too, with a nice hat and it was a lovely time for them. My dad wrote a storybook all about the day out about what went on.

Mr Harris said in his storybook: "There had been many days of concentrated work, worry and tension.

"We were both feeling depressed and very low. Since the smallpox scare we had had a fire in our own kitchen and a severe flood in the nurses home and it seemed that no-one wanted to help us. Then about 11.20am the telephone rang... the chairman of the Regional Health Authority had put our names forward for the Royal Garden Party on July 12, 1979 and would we like to go? Would we?!

"Suddenly we were on top of the world, bursting with excitement, depression and dull care had vanished as though they had never been. We wanted to tell the world, but we kept the secret from March until June."

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| Leslie Harris and wife Dorothy were caretakers at the Catherine-de-Barnes isolation hospital

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 2, 2018
Words:278
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