Charity chief earns MBE for her work

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Margaret Dunbar, former chief executive of St Columba’s Hospice, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for service to palliative care.

Margaret Forbes Dunbar was born in 1958 in Glasgow.

Her father was a precision engineer and her mother worked in the post office.

Margaret went to the city’s Hyndland Secondary School and began training as a nurse at Glasgow’s Western Infirmary in 1975.

Finishing her training in 1978, she spent a year as a staff nurse at the Western Infirmary before going to the Queen Mother’s Hospital in Glasgow to train to be a midwife.

She worked there in the special care baby unit for a year before deciding she preferred nursing adults and returned to the Western Infirmary in 1981.

An interest in what was then termed “terminal care” had been sparked while she was a student and when a post came up as ward manager at Marie Curie’s Huntershill Hospice in Glasgow, Margaret applied and got the job.

She started there in 1986, just as palliative care was becoming recognised as a distinct medical specialism, thanks in part to the pioneering work of Derek Doyle, the first medical director of Edinburgh’s St Columba’s Hospice.

Margaret undertook professional studies in palliative care while she was working and also completed a BSc degree in health studies.

She moved to become nursing director at St Columba’s in 1998 and was appointed chief executive in 2010.

Her period of office included leading the hospice through its greatest period of change by overseeing the recent £26 million rebuild project.

Margaret and her husband Iain lived for a few years in West Lothian, but then moved back to Glasgow and Margaret commuted to work.

She said the completion of the new St Columba’s was the pinnacle of her career and a good time to take early retirement.

Iain, who worked in mobile crane hire, is also now virtually retired.

The couple have two sons, Ross and Alan, and two grandchildren, Cara and Matthew.

Margaret says she likes walking, reading, cooking and “wine tasting”. But she says: “I’m looking forward to taking on new hobbies now I’ve got time, but I’ve not decided what they will be yet.”

She says receiving the MBE was a huge honour, but one she felt she shared with everyone at St Columba’s.

She says: “St Columba’s is a fantastic facility and a great place.

“The rebuild project involved a lot of stress and hassle. But for good palliative care, teamwork is essential and I look on the MBE as belonging to everyone in the team who worked so hard to make it so successful.

“I always said people are what makes St Columba’s Hospice.”