‘Shirley’s care stopped me becoming a wrong’un’

SUCCESS Kevin Ormsby is club captain at Hayling Island Golf Club. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (123494-3)
SUCCESS Kevin Ormsby is club captain at Hayling Island Golf Club. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (123494-3)

Shoplifter tackled to the ground after taking tops in Portsmouth

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Captain of the golf club. Five words which, for some, might conjure up a stereotypical image of tweeds, brogues and a cut glass accent.

Kevin Ormsby is the current captain of Hayling Golf Club and his background is as far as you could possibly get from that cartoon image.

THANKFUL Kevin Ormsby with Shirley Metherell

THANKFUL Kevin Ormsby with Shirley Metherell

He is half way through his term of office at one of Britain’s leading links courses and is busy raising money for his chosen charity.

It’s the Elizabeth Foundation – the national charity, started in Portsmouth more than three decades ago, which encourages and develops communication for deaf children.

All fine and dandy you might think. Nothing unusual there. Good bloke. Good cause.

Then you delve further into Kevin’s reasons for choosing the Cosham-based foundation.

It was founded by Shirley Metherell and her husband David in 1981, but before that Shirley ran a children’s home in the city. Kevin was one of her charges. Her affection and kindness turned around Kevin’s life to such an extent that he called her mum. At the age of 54 he still does.

Shirley showed such faith in him that the nine-year-old boy taken into care in the middle of the night in a red Mini was able to turn his life around and end up as a successful salesman and leader of the links at Hayling.

So, what happened? ‘My mum was an alcoholic and I guess I was bunking off school, hanging around fairgrounds, pinching fruit and veg from the stalls in Charlotte Street to take home. She was always drunk. That’s all I really remember about her,’ he says.

‘I grew up in the heart of Portsmouth. Landport. First Arundel Street then Bursledon House and it was from there I was taken into care.’

He ended up in the now notorious Cottage Homes children’s home off Southwick Hill Road, Cosham. It is long-since demolished but the site was just yards from where the Elizabeth Foundation is now based. The irony is not lost on Kevin.

‘It was a real shock to the system. I was nine years old and taken away at night. I always remember the red Mini. To this day I have something about red cars.

‘I was taken to Cottage Homes and it was like going into something from Charles Dickens. It was horrible.

‘I’ll never forget being made to lift the mattress and forced to dust the bedsprings, then fold up the blankets and sheets on the end of the bed. It was a military regime.

‘Then there was the time I really whacked hard around the head for licking a little dribble of ketchup from the neck of the bottle.’

From there Kevin was despatched to another home – Godiva Lawn – at Kingsley Road, Milton, and then moved on again a few hundred yards down the road to the Lightfoot Lawn home. It was a move which would eventually change his life.

‘The two men who ran it were monsters. Very, very strict, horrid people. I hated it. Then one day they were gone and this breath of fresh air arrived.’

That arrival was Shirley and her husband Dave. They came to run the home and overnight the atmosphere changed.

Kevin adds: ‘She was wonderful. It was like the parting of the waves. The clouds lifted. She was very young, about 21 I think, but all of a sudden we felt we were part of a real family.

‘She put a stop to us queueing up for our pocket money every week and for our food three times a day. She bought us a Chinese meal one day and then fish and chips and we all thought “wow, this is what life could be like”.

‘I called her mum even though my real mum would come and visit once a week. I still call Shirley mum.’

He continues: ‘I was no angel and there was a time when a member of staff complained about something I’d done and told Shirley that it was a case of me going or her. Shirley told her ‘‘Push the door to on your way out’’.

‘No-one had ever shown that kind of faith in me before. All I’d ever been told was that I was no good, that it was only a matter of time before I’d end up in prison.’

Kevin remained in care until his 16th birthday when he had to leave. He found a bedsit and got a job as an apprentice in the dockyard.

He quit after three months and there then followed a variety of jobs until he discovered he had a talent for selling. For the past 18 years he has worked for Stihl, the world’s biggest chain saw company, and is currently area sales manager for a large swathe of the south.

He works from home at Hayling Island where he is married to Heidi who owns and runs the Heidi’s Swiss patisserie chain. Between them they have four children, Christopher, 29, Dean, 28, Keeley, 26, and Daniel 25.

And working from home gave him a chance to do something which had been burning away at him for years.

‘When I was about 15 I was told I had two older sisters. Mum [his birth mother], who died when I was 18, would never talk about it. It was too painful.

‘After she died I thought that if I didn’t do something about it I would regret it for the rest of my life.’

He spent hundreds of hours sifting through records in Portsmouth’s Central Library looking for birth and marriage certificates until one day he came up trumps. Neither sister knew the other existed, nor that they had a brother.

He traced Julie to her home near Guildford and Angela to New Malden, Surrey. In a strange twist, he discovered they both live close to companies he calls at frequently.

There have now been emotional meetings between them all. ‘Angie didn’t remember mum at all because she was adopted at birth. Julie did because she was six when she went into care.

‘But because I knew mum until I was 18 I was able to tell them much more about her.’

Kevin says his desire to trace his family was partly down to him maturing, but also because of the sense of family finally given to him by Shirley Metherell.

‘She’s been the catalyst for everything. Even though my mum was around, Shirley was there for me. Everybody else reckoned I’d be a wrong’un, but she was having none of it.’

EXPERTISE AND LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN RECOGNISED

Shirley Metherell and her husband David set up The Elizabeth Foundation in 1981, after their daughter Elizabeth was diagnosed as profoundly deaf.

They were inspired by the services provided by the John Tracy Clinic in the USA and were driven by the need to help other parents of newly-diagnosed deaf children in the UK.

The organisation Shirley founded has grown under her leadership to become a successful and vibrant national charity.

Her expertise and leadership has been recognised by awards including an honorary Master of Education degree from The University of Portsmouth and a Civic Award presented by The City of Portsmouth.

Earlier this year she announced she will retire as the charity’s chief executive at the end of the year.