A Brief History of Migraine Action

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Peter WilsonIntroduction

To celebrate the first 50 years of Migraine Action (formerly the British Migraine Association) this leaflet has been produced to give a brief history of the Association to date. It is an acknowledgement of the work of the founder, Peter Wilson, and all who followed - both paid staff and volunteers - who have worked tirelessly to carry out the aims and purposes of the Association in raising awareness of migraine and its effects on work and family life through a period of great change.

This condensed “social history” shows the highs and lows of the growth of an influential and articulate group, “a charity run by migraine sufferers for migraine sufferers”. The amount of information contained in the first twenty years of newsletters is astounding: Peter Wilson was extremely well informed and kept close contact with all the members, pursuing his dream of improving the quality of life for sufferers. His successors learned from his work and made their own impact as the guardians of his legacy. What follows here is a swift gallop through those fifty years.

The idea of an association representing the five million or more migraine sufferers in Britain came about after Peter Wilson suffered a very close brush with sudden death in a 152 mph hurricane. When on Russian Convoy during World War Two, and while trying to cope with the worst migraine attack of his life, he flouted orders and went out on deck in search of fresh air. Swept overboard by a mountainous wave he was fortuitously swept back again. He vowed revenge on “the hammering devil” that had nearly taken his life, but it was not until fourteen years later that he felt fit enough to take up the challenge.

In 1958, on the advice of George Bell, his local pharmacist, he placed an advertisement in the Bournemouth Evening Echo inviting fellow migraineurs to attend a meeting at the San Remo Hotel in Bournemouth. Ten people attended and everyone donated £10 (a considerable amount of money at the time). The British Migraine Association was formed, acknowledged to be the world’s first organization to represent millions of sufferers. With his total savings of £8, Peter advertised in The Daily Telegraph for more fellow sufferers to join him in forming an association with the aim of encouraging greater research and treatment facilities.
By the end of 1959 the membership had risen to more than 1000, the first Annual General Meeting had been held and the first single-page newsletter circulated. In 1960 publicity in Woman’s Own led to an additional 2,000 members. The first edition of Migraine the Facts was published in 1960 and the publication of a regular newsletter began. It was two years before a newspaper article triggered an avalanche of enquiries and supporters that enabled the Association to donate its first £500 to the Royal College of General Practitioners towards a special Migraine Symposium in London. And so the work of the British Migraine Association (renamed the Migraine Action Association in 1997) continued for the next 50 years fulfilling the aims and purposes set out by its founders.

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