Paul Nicholas became conscious of death as a young boy growing up in a nursing home run by his mother, a nurse. She tried to make sure he was kicking a ball in the garden when one of the residents died, but it wasn’t always possible to protect him from the one great certainty in life apart from taxes.
An only child whose father was a schoolmaster, Paul also had an early introduction to nurses and carers and was never lonely because, he said, “it was like having 15 grandmothers”.
From boarding school he went to Cambridge University, graduating in law. After completing his professional qualifications and training, he joined a firm in London where he stayed for the rest of his career, specialising in commercial and corporate law.
Paul’s expertise was to prove invaluable to the Peace Hospice when he was approached by its first Chair, Gill Hollander, to become a Trustee and ensure its safe passage through any stormy legal waters. While some legal formalities were straightforward, negotiating the lease became “a monumental task”. The work was done through his firm, but he would work out the cost of his services and then reimburse the Hospice with a personal cheque.
After “endless meetings”, the newly-structured Health Authority finally acknowledged that they had to honour the Earl of Clarendon’s wish that the Peace Memorial Hospital should be used only for the benefit of the community. Conscious of the financial failure of a Hospice at Chorleywood and aware of the personal financial responsibility for the Peace Trustees for any debts, Paul Nicholas was intent on stressing the need for prudence: “I wasn’t prepared to put my name to a building contract until we had every pound in the bank already, plus a contingency sum”.
Paul said he could recall little of the speeches at the opening of the Hospice by Princess Michael of Kent, because his job was to look after her – he sat next to her at a Royal Gala concert at the Watford Colosseum – and in contrast to sometimes unfavourable media attention, found her “utterly down to earth and very good with the patients and staff at the Hospice”.
With sound business principles in place, Paul Nicholas retired as a Trust Board member in 2005. Generally, he said, “lawyers are not emotional” but over his 16-year involvement he had clearly developed an affection for the Peace Hospice: “It was touching to see this caring organisation firmly established and up and running, doing a really useful job, and seeing the gratitude of the patients and their relatives. There was a warm feeling about that – this was a really worthwhile organisation”.