AS Devizes PHAB Club prepares to mark its 40th anniversary, and the retirement of stalwart Michael Braund from his role as transport manager after 30 years, he looks back at the group’s success.

Mr Braund, 72, has been in charge of organising the bus which takes elderly and disabled people to regular clubs and shopper service for three decades, but his involvement goes back even further.

The club, which was formed in the 1970s to bring disabled and able bodied people together for social and fundraising events, came from an idea first mooted more than 50 years ago.

Mr Braund said: “Its aim was also to provide ‘Opportunity not pity’, to share in a social life in which physically handicapped and able bodied would be together. For much of the time disabled were isolated by special events, housing, education etc, and the real need was for integration, so PHAB was to become a halfway house to fuller integration.”

In 1974 PHAB became a charity in its own right but the Devizes group was not formed until a couple of years later when it got backing from Devizes Round Table and Wiltshire’s social services.

Dave Robins, as chairman of Round Table, made the formation of Devizes PHAB its project for 1977 and an inaugural meeting took place at Braeside in Devizes early April of that year.

The first officers elected were Betty Matthews as chairman, Jock Laurie as treasurer and Eddie Myers as leader.

Club meetings were originally held in Devizes School but later moved to other venues, but as membership increased larger premises were required and meetings were held at Southfields Day Centre and St John’s Parish Rooms, before it moved moving to its present home with other disabled groups at the Nursteed Centre, Devizes, in 1984.

The club needed to raise money and people came up with the idea of an annual sponsored wheelchair push, walk and run which is still the charity’s biggest fundraiser.

This event for many years was held as part of a fun day at Keevil Airfield and over the years has attracted many celebrities including Leslie Crowther, Bobby Gould, David Hemery, Patricia Brake, Felix Bowness, Norris McWhirter, Richard Wyatt and Sherrie Eugene, Shirley Ludford, George Baker and Sue Osman.

But with an ageing membership the big fun days proved too much to organise from 1999 but the push was retained and moved to the Nursteed Centre.

Mr Braund said: “These have proved a great success and help to raise around £1,500 to £2,000 a year and incorporates the fancy dress and hat competitions.”

He said the transport scheme started as there had always been a problem for people to get into Devizes from outlying villages. In 1986 the club raised £13,000 to buy its first minibus fitted with a hydraulic tail lift with help from Round Table and other supporters. Other buses have been bought over the years with the help of fundraising and a Lottery grant.

The shopper bus project started in 1996 to provide services to Devizes on a Thursday and to other larger towns on a regular basis. They It continues to this day but more volunteers are needed to help keep it them running.