Being unveiled as a new ambassador for the Northern Ireland Hospice was something of a family reunion for Eamonn Holmes.
He took the opportunity yesterday to shine the spotlight on his cousin who works for the charity and was also re-united with a member of his ‘TV family’ – Paul Clark, who is the organisation’s president.
In delivering a speech to those who had assembled in the Northern Ireland Hospice’s north Belfast base, Mr Holmes was quick to divert attention to his cousin Mary Rose Scott.
He later told the News Letter: “The real hero, the real Holmes who should be praised is Mary Rose Holmes – now Scott.
“She’s my cousin and she’s a wonderful girl. She’s a therapist here and she shows that it’s not just cancer treatments that are provided here.
“She gives therapeutic care, helping the people here with their aches and pains and relaxation.
“She’s full time with the hospice and really she is the star of the family.”
Mrs Scott, who has been with NI Hospice for 26 years as a complimentary therapist, said she was a little nervous about being called forward by her cousin.
“He’ll make a great ambassador and I’m not just saying that because he’s family,” she said.
The occasion also brought together two of Ulster’s most famous television personalities as the This Morning host picked up where he left off with UTV’s Paul Clark.
Mr Holmes said: “Paul Clark is a total inspiration. A good, good man.
“Through his example I realise it’s not just about turning up and raising money and shaking hands – which is very important – it’s about being here and spending time with the patients and talking to people.
“I don’t understand why anyone wants to talk to me or be involved with me or have their photo taken with me, but staff say it gives them a little buzz.
“It’s great that we have people like Paul Clark or Brendan Rodgers (another NI Hospice ambassador) to call upon for support.
“Anyone in the public eye who can devote some of their time to meet patients, I know sometimes it’s like a dose of medicine for a short time.”
Earlier in the week the former UTV and Sky News presenter had visited NI Hospice and NI Children’s Hospice and met with patients and care team staff.
TV star Eamonn Holmes, who grew up a short distance from Northern Ireland Hospice’s adult and children’s facilities in north Belfast, said he had witnessed an amazing transformation.
The new NI Hospice ambassador commented: “As a young man when I used to walk past the hospice here you sort of averted your eyes because you didn’t like to think of what went on in there.
“Now when you see this – the biggest charity development project ever in Northern Ireland – and you go inside, you see the story is one of incredible positivity, excitement and joy.
“You realise that people don’t come here to die, they come here to live, to enjoy whatever life they have left.”
He added: “I salute these people and I’m so proud to be an ambassador for them and to spread the word and to realise how much money is actually needed from the voluntary sector to keep this going.
“My job now is to spread the word, be involved in fundraising projects and to make sure we continue to provide the best possible care in this, the best possible environment.”
NI Hospice President Paul Clark said it was nice to be working alongside his former UTV colleague.
Having been with NI Hospice for 30 years – 20 of those as president – Mr Clark said he had his parents to thank for getting involved.
He said: “They brought me up to give back. This society has been very good to me and this is an opportunity to give something back.
“The nature of my job – as someone who is wedded to our society – is such that my role with the hospice would fall very comfortably into that. Cancer or terminal illness knows no bounds, it is no respecter of class nor creed. We all know someone who has had a terminal illness.”
The Belfast-born presenter was presented with his official ambassador pin badge by 14-year-old golf prodigy Tom McKibben who is a member of Holywood Golf Club, and has drawn inevitable comparisons with Rory McIlroy.
He said he had enjoyed his 18 months to date as a NI Hospice ambassador.