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Notice: Twin Sisters Returning To NHS Front Line Inspires Ewbank’s Charity Auction

Published on: 30 Apr, 2020
Updated on: 30 Apr, 2020

When Ewbank’s Auctioneers decided to stage a Rainbow Charity Auction for the NHS, they had a particularly personal reason for doing so.

Alastair McCrea, who heads the auction house’s entertainment and sporting memorabilia department, had just waved goodbye to his wife Caroline, who was returning to work as an advanced critical care practitioner in intensive care (ICU) at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth after maternity leave, leaving nine-month-old Joshua at home with Alastair.

Twin sisters, Caroline, left and Francesca, have returned to work in the same ICU ward after maternity leave.

Joining her in ICU was her twin sister, Francesca, a doctor who was also returning from maternity leave having given birth to daughter Willow the day before Joshua was born.

“It’s been an intense experience for Caroline and Francesca.,” Alastair said: “After Caroline’s first shift on April 2, she came home shocked at the number of patients coming into the hospital.”

Alastair revealed that the hardest part has been the impact of the protective clothing the hospital staff have to wear.

He said: “This effectively removes the human element of nursing as the only personal contact is via the eyes. This is particularly striking because patients are not able to have any physical contact with their loved ones during this time.”

Alastair decided he wanted to support them in the best way he could, by raising money through a charity auction for the Royal Surrey County Hospital, where Joshua was born and near where the auction house is based, and the Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Local businesses and individuals have been swift to react to the call for pledges for Ewbank’s Rainbow Charity Auction.

“I have appealed for people to donate experiences rather than objects,” said Alastair, “because I also want to support businesses where possible to help them get back on their feet after all of this, and I think it would be nice for people in lockdown to have an outing to look forward to.”

Caroline McCrea, centre, with her colleagues from the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth. Caroline’s sister, Francesca, has also returned after maternity leave.

Pledges so far include a hotel break, restaurant meals, a day of touring and tasting at Silent Pool Gin distillery, Indian food specialist Mandira’s Kitchen and Albury Vineyard, a tour of Dorking Brewery, another of Denbies Wine Estate and even a free MoT test.

“We also have free tickets for the Guildford Flames ice hockey, signed football shirts from Fulham and Cardiff City football clubs, as well as a selection of exclusive artworks and tickets for this year’s panto in Portsmouth,” said Alastair.

“One of the best highlights is a painting donated by renowned artist Sherree Valentine Daines, from Leatherhead, who has exhibited at the Tate and is collected by the royal family.”

With a small baby at home, returning to work on the frontline was difficult, “but Caroline and her sister didn’t hesitate because they have a very strong sense of duty,” said Alastair. “Obviously, you worry when someone puts themselves in this position, but I couldn’t be prouder.”

It’s not the first time the couple have had to rise to the occasion in an emergency. In 2015, two days before they were due to be married, their wedding venue, Clandon Park House, went up in flames, but they managed to arrange for the event to be transferred to Loseley Park, south of Guildford.

Alastair added: “In many ways it made it an even more memorable occasion but I think everyone concerned would have preferred not to have gone through that experience and to still see Clandon Park House in all its former glory.”

Now, though, the couple are firmly focused on doing their bit.

Alastair and Caroline McCrea.

Ewbank’s Rainbow Charity Auction, a timed online auction, running now until the close of play on Friday, May 18.

To donate, email Alastair details of the pledge or a voucher at and these can be forwarded via emails to the successful bidders, who can then redeem them when lockdown comes to an end. All donations should be made by May 7.

The auction will be live on the Ewbank’s Auctions website and shared on all the company’s social media platforms and to their mailing list of 35,000. They will also credit any donations in the description. For those who would rather make a direct cash donation there will be online payment facilities.

There will be no selling or buying fees and the entire proceeds will be split 50/50 between the two hospitals. Full details of the auction will be available via the auctioneer’s website.

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