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History of Simpsons Special Care Babies

Key dates

Foundation of the charity

Marie’s beloved daughter Chiara was born prematurely at 27+ weeks on 30 June 1982 weighing only 1lb 3ozs. Marie recalls her experiences of being a parent with a child in the Neonatal Unit vividly, remembering the Intensive Care Unit being just like a long corridor with the incubators at one side separated by only a partition. 

Good or bad news was given in that corridor. There was nowhere for the parents to spend time away and no area available where families could be together. Then there were times when the shortage of equipment meant that a piece of equipment had to be taken from an improving baby to monitor a sicker one. Talking to other parents and visitors it seemed there were enough people who wanted to help the Unit and could be active in fundraising and raising awareness. 


So Sue and Peter Heatly, Heather Brown, Willie Gibson, Rhona and Ian Laing with Dr Hume (the doctor in charge of the Unit then), Marie and her tireless sister Claire all initiated a group to talk over how they could help. Things had to change and they could make a difference - numbers didn’t matter, commitment did. Ian Laing, then Senior Registrar became actively involved soon after. No name for the group was identified. Friends of Simpson Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (FOSNICU) was chosen in 1985 as Dr Hume felt it was very important to inform people about the intensive nature of the care the babies needed. Deirdre Dalrymple was instrumental in drawing up the Constitution.


Meetings were held in each others living rooms as there was no suitable room in the Simpson for the monthly meetings. Later Little Marco’s volunteered a room until fortunately they were able to obtain a room in the Simpson. Marie recalls sitting in cars long after the meetings or in the Simpson lifts talking, encouraging each other, overcoming each and every problem that they faced. It was hard going with no resources.  


The main fundraising activities for this dedicated group in the early years was through BBQ’s, held in Claire Hart’s (Marie’s sister) back garden and FOSNICU Christmas cards. Western Motors were enormously kind and sponsored the Christmas cards which were then sold at the Christmas Hypermarket in George Street. Marie has memories of rolling up Christmas paper on the floor of the hall in the Sacred Heart church in Lauriston Street ready for the Hypermarket.


They were in close contact with the Evening News and the paper did an article about the funding of the Unit highlighting the problems associated with the facilities.


Each step brought more support.  


Marie bowed out of active fund raising after 10 years commitment to the charity and the Unit. On her last visit to the Unit, she saw a comfortable Family room and all the basics in place. She felt those years of fund raising had realised many things - the Unit looked immeasurably better and she was very pleased to see it.


Active fund raising has enabled the Unit to be equipped appropriately. It has enabled rooms for parents and families to be furnished and fitted out.  It continues to support the Unit and provide that little bit extra. The Unit is a different place to that of the early 1980’s. It is due to persistence and a desire to make a difference and working together. 


Written in the year 2000 by Marie Corvi

Founder of FOSNICU, now Simpsons Special Care Babies


Postscript: In 1996, the Charity was re-launched, under the name Simpsons Special Care Babies, and the actress, Dame Diana Rigg, very kindly accepted an invitation to be our Patron.

The Formation of the Charity “Friends of Simpson’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit” in February 1985


On 27 September 1982, our son Gary was born 10 weeks premature, weighing 3lbs 14oz. Between Simpson's and Elsie Inglis Special Care Units, Gary was to spend 7 weeks in hospital before we could bring him home. 

In September 1984, Peter ran the Edinburgh Marathon to raise money, to show our appreciation for the life saving care Gary had received. He managed to raise £810.00 and we asked which charity we should pay our cheque to. As there was not a charity, we, together with our great friends Marie Corvi and Clare Hart and alongside Deirdre Dalrymple and Heather Brown, founded the charity “Friends of Simpson's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit” in February 1985. 

It was a voluntarily run charity, set up by a group of parents and friends who'd had babies in the Intensive Care Unit.

Our aim was to raise funds to buy Intensive Care Equipment and to support parents who had babies in the Unit.

We looked for people to support us in the best preventative care from birth, held a number of fund raising events through the year and were always looking for donations, sponsorship, advertising and practical help.

We worked tirelessly to raise funds for over six years, before we passed the baton on. 

Our grandsons, Finlay and Callan, were also born prematurely in June 2013 and January 2015 respectively and received treatment at Simpson's Special Care Unit.

Peter had the pleasure in September 2017 of attending Simpsons Special Care Babies AGM and Business Meeting. There were a lot of similarities, however a heading of "Website and Computing" was never on our Agenda and the current committee were surprised to hear that a part of our income back in the 1980s was Bank Interest!

It is wonderful to see that over 33 years later, although the name has changed, the Charity has continued to go from strength to strength.

To all at Simpson’s, keep up the great work. It certainly makes a difference!


Peter and Sue Heatly

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