Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

Thalidomide campaigner remembers victims of morning sickness drug

4 May 2022 by Guy Tweedy

A Harrogate thalidomider has paid tribute to the victims of the morning sickness ‘wonder drug’ which was withdrawn from the UK market six decades ago.

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Harrogate thalidomider, Guy Tweedy

Businessman Guy Tweedy, who himself turns 60 in June, laid a wreath at the foot of a copper beech tree planted on the town’s Montpellier Hill in 2012 - the UK’s first-ever memorial to those who died as a result of their mothers being prescribed the drug in the early stages of their pregnancy.

The is also to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Thalidomide Society, which was formed in 1962 by the parents of children affected by the drug. The original aim of the Society was to provide mutual support and a social network as well as to seek compensation.

Today the Society’s members include those affected by thalidomide, their families and carers as well as people with similar dysmelic impairments.

The Society strives to provide insight and information to anyone seeking to understand the history of thalidomide, contributes to ongoing research and archival material on the drug and supports projects which aim to ensure the impact of thalidomide is never forgotten.

At least 2,000 babies in the UK were born with deformities brought about directly by thalidomide, and more than half of them died within their first year. An unknown number also died in the womb.

Common deformities included missing or shortened limbs, blindness, brain damage and missing internal organs. There are a total of 442 thalidomiders aged between 56 and 63 still alive in the UK today.

Over the last two decades, Mr Tweedy - who sufferers from shortened arms and fingers fused together, has helped secure hundreds-of-millions of pounds from the Government for the ongoing care of fellow survivors.   

He said: “A decade ago, we planted this tree to commemorate those who died from this hideous drug. Thalidomide was the worst man-made disaster in peace time history.

“It killed thousands of babies in the womb and in their first years of life. It left thousands more with terrible deformities and affected the lives of thousands of families around the world.

“For the last ten years I have watched the memorial tree grow – and it will be here long after I, and all the other Thalidomide survivors, have passed away.

“The Harrogate District has seven thalidomide survivors, and since its inception 60 years ago the Thalidomide Society has fought our corner and championed our welfare.

“Whilst this wreath is to commemorate the victims of this tragedy, it’s also to recognise the ongoing work of the Thalidomide Society which aims to ensure the impact of thalidomide is never forgotten.