It is with great sadness that I have to report the death on January 20th of Pat Schooling, the Director and moving spirit behind Action Against Allergy. She was 93.
AAA, founded by Amelia Nathan Hill in 1978, was the first charity to be set up to support those with undiagnosed food allergy and intolerance. Amelia had suffered years of debilitating illness until, inspired by the late Dr Richard Mackarnass’ book, All in the Mind, she used elimination diets to identify the allergens that were ruining her life. She subsequently described her journey in ‘Against the Unsuspected Enemy’ the response to which led her to set up, with her old friend and fellow allergy sufferer, Aeronwy Thomas Ellis, Action Against Allergy. I do not know how Pat and Amelia originally met but, although not allergic herself, Pat soon became involved in the charity and in 1990 took over its running as director, a position that she held until her own death.
Pat was a woman of extraordinary determination. Over the 20+ years that I knew her (she invited me, along with Jackie Bonella who was at that time treasurer of Migraine Action, to become AAA trustees late in the 1990s) she had almost every joint in her body replaced, as well as contracting an exotic range of diseases. Yet her health was never allowed to stand in the way of her work. Never did an email or a query go unanswered, never did I see her uncoiffed and never did I hear her complain although we knew that she was often in pain.
On the contrary, she continued to drive AAA forward. Seminars and workshops, participation in on line forums, a long standing allergy essay competition, the charity’s invaluable ‘find me a doctor’ service, a much loved quarterly newsletter, a campaign to support older allergy sufferers and a close relationship with the Guys and St Thomas Allergy Service. This resulted in AAA launching and subsequently supporting the service’s new and extremely welcome allergy psychology service.
However, AAA was only one of Pat’s many activities. For 30 years she also chaired her local Richmond in Bloom organising committee guiding them to a gold award in London in Bloom in 2010 and a silver gilt award in Britain in Bloom the following year. Indeed the image above is of Pat announcing winners at a recent year’s awards. ‘She was a born organiser’ remembered a fellow judge, as well as a consummate diplomat, uniting residents, local representatives, traders and councillors in an enthusiastic Bloom community across Richmond.
And, as if that were not enough, with Amelia Nathan Hill, Pat also established Merton Books, at first as distributor of specialist allergy titles and then in 1997, as a publisher of original works for and by allergy sufferers. In this context Pat first met Jennifer Worth, whose life destroying eczema was finally resolved by an elimination diet. And it was Pat who encouraged Jennifer to record her memories of her time as a community midwife in the 1950s – and who subsequently, through Merton Books, published those memoirs as ‘Call the Midwife’ – now a globally renowned TV series. Merton Books is still very much in business as a publisher, a distributor and a literary agent with several titles pending publication at Pat’s death.
Sadly, both for Pat and the loyal group of members who continued to support AAA, the fund raising needed to support the charity, which had become extremely difficult over the last few years, became impossible when COVID struck. As a result, in the autumn of 2020 the decision was made to close the charity. Sad though this was, in retrospect, we are all very glad that Pat was able to put the charity that she had done so much for over the years neatly ‘to bed’ before taking her own leave.
Pat’s funeral will be on 22nd February at midday. You can watch it at https://www.obitus.com – Username Civa3692 Password 280204 – both live and watch again.
Rather than sending flowers please make a donation to the Brook Hospital for Animals, Pat’s chosen charity.
Please feel free to add any memories that you may have of Pat, or any tributes to her or her work, as a comment.