“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lord Richard Attenborough, a true gentleman and someone that had made a lifelong commitment to muscular dystrophy. I will never forget our meeting, now over seven years ago, at an art exhibition in London; more importantly, I will never ever forget his gentle, kind, caring words of encouragement at what was a very difficult time for me in my own life, a time when I was feeling overwhelmed with the deteriorative nature of my own condition and disillusioned with the way forwards,” revealed Michael McGrath.
Pictured above: Lord Richard Attenborough with The Muscle Help Foundation’s CEO Michael McGrath taken in London on Wednesday 23rd January 2007, courtesy of Lisa Payne Photography.
|“From what I’ve heard about the work of your charity, you simply must keep going”Lord Richard Attenborough|
“When people ask ‘who inspires you Michael’, my mind reverts back to that moment in time when Lord Attenborough said to me: “From what I’ve heard about the work of your charity, you simply must keep going” – he was a unique force for good in championing muscular dystrophy and I am acutely aware that he met many families who’s lives had been shattered by this muscle wasting disease. His compassion, empathy and supportive words to me had a very deep impact that night. I recall driving home from London with my wife filled with a sense of renewed hope, purpose and energy; it was a significant turning point, a gear-changer if you will and ‘Dickie’ without ever knowing it was the catalyst,” added McGrath.
“I must confess I felt somewhat under-dressed against his immaculately pressed dark suit, starched collar and sharp tie – it’s not every day you get the opportunity to meet an Academy Awards and BAFTA winner, actor, director and film producer. I am truly honoured to have met him, to have witnessed his dedication to muscular dystrophy and to have simply laughed with him. At the event in London, I recall he spoke with enormous compassion, sensitivity and quite obviously, a very real and evident understanding about why it is we must never give up in the fight against muscle wasting diseases like muscular dystrophy.”
“The world needs an army of Dickie Attenborough’s – I will always remember his measured reminder to everyone gathered that evening that we mustn’t forget the countless mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, uncles, aunts and even grandparents who in each and every waking day, unconditionally give of themselves in caring for, supporting and helping those in the family whose lives are being destroyed by a disease that remains the single biggest genetic killer of children on our planet today; whether that be turning someone four of five times in a night, feeding someone unable to feed themselves or even helping someone to relax and breathe at night time so they can simply sleep more easily.”
“For many years, I had wanted to meet the man who played one of the lead characters by the name of Brody in one of my favourite black and white movie, a classic 1958 war film called ‘Sea of Sand’ set in the North African desert. It’s about a group of officers who at first don’t see eye to eye and where unpredictable clashes of class, rank and experience make getting on with the job at hand really challenging; as in real life, they learn to listen to each other, they learn to inspire each other, playing to their strengths, yet recognising their weaknesses. They eventually work together for their common goal and succeed on their mission,” commented McGrath.
“Lord Attenborough will be terribly missed by many, especially by the broad muscular dystrophy community for whom he was such a force for good – deepest sympathies to his family. #RIPDickie.”
Michael met Lord Richard Attenborough at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre (formerly Novas Art Gallery) in London, at an exhibition called ‘Perspectives on muscle disease: life in pictures’. The event was held on Wednesday 23rd January 2007 and it featured one of Britain’s best portrait painters Jonathan Yeo. The event was organised by another charity that Michael is a Company Member of and for whom he used to be a Trustee for called the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign (Reg Charity No. 205395, Reg Scottish Charity No. SC039445 and Company No. 705357), a charity that Lord Attenborough had been a former President and long-term supporter for more than 50 years.