Margaret Wyllie talks to Health and Homeopathy (Winter 2014/15) magazine about why she became so passionate about homeopathy and how she would like to see the BHA develop.
Can you tell the readers a little about your career background?
I was an English teacher in Edinburgh, working first of all in the Nautical College preparing Middle Eastern students for courses in navigation, engineering and radio. Then it became a Further Education college and I taught students from all over the world – ranging from a Tibetan farmer to Kazakh oil engineers. When the department became too big and I found I was doing more admin than teaching, I left and set up my own small language school in the city, working mostly with au pairs.
Many of my former students have kept in touch, and as a result my husband and I have enjoyed wonderful holidays and been present at weddings and christenings in some amazing places. They also love coming back to Scotland to visit us and show their families around the country.
When my children were small I took some time out from the classroom and kept busy with freelance journalism.
How has homeopathy benefitted your health?
Following a chronic illness in my late teens and early twenties, which took me in desperation to a homeopathic doctor, I have – apart from the occasional
accident – been relatively healthy (touch wood!). My GP’s astonishment at the improvement in my health led him to undertake homeopathic training, so my
family and I have benefitted enormously from the skills of these two doctors.
Many of my contemporaries are taking an array of conventional medicines, most commonly statins. So far, I’ve managed to steer clear of this. I can’t remember if I have ever taken, or needed to take, an antibiotic.
Have you used or do you use any other form of complementary therapy?
Yes! I have osteoarthritis in my spine and occasional visits to a local cranio-sacral therapist keep me moving. When I do myself an injury that needs physio,
I find that acupuncture is a useful add-on. Also, in the past I’ve been a happy guinea pig for friends training to be reflexologists or aromatherapists.
Do you have a personal approach to healthy living?
I try to eat well and avoid processed food as far as possible. I drink water, green tea or whisky! I live in a beautiful part of the country, East Lothian, in the foothills of the Lammermuirs and I love to walk in the hills or on the coast. And we have over 40 beautiful golf courses in the county, some with spectacular views, and just begging to be played!
Why did you join the BHA?
How could I not have joined? When we set up the Lothian Homeopathic Group in 1986, the BHA – and particularly the then general secretary, Enid Segall – offered superb support: they were a source of information and encouragement; they provided a box of books for us to sell at each meeting; and they supported our successful campaign for an NHS clinic in Lothian, which later expanded into three clinics. (Sadly, NHS Lothian withdrew the service in March 2014.) And of course I very much enjoy reading Health and Homeopathy!
As the new chairman of the BHA, in what areas would you like to see the organisation develop?
4Homeopathy has been a very important start and I would like to see even more cooperation with other homeopathic and CAM-related groups, both across the country and in the EU where homeopathy faces similar challenges to those in the UK.
I would also like to see an increase in the number of people joining the BHA as Friends. I have been looking at some of the European homeopathic patient
associations to see what they offer their members and I will be discussing this with my fellow trustees and our chief executive.
As well as supporting the important and ground-breaking research already in hand, I think we should begin to look at cost comparisons between homeopathic and conventional treatment. This was done in Tayside when their health board was considering whether to keep their homeopathic service; once the managers had seen the figures, which demonstrated the enormous savings made when patients were able to reduce or, in some cases, stop taking conventional medicines, they were easily persuaded not to close the service.
The BHA plays an active role within the 4Homeopathy group. Why do you think this collaboration is important?
I think it’s enormously important to cooperate with other organisations which have similar aims. We are more powerful and have a stronger voice if we pool our resources and work together. We will achieve far more this way than if we all acted individually.
What can the BHA’s members do to help defend NHS homeopathy services?
Many already do a huge amount. We must stand up against the bullying tactics of some of our detractors. Speak up, tell people about homeopathy’s benefits – especially any health professionals you encounter; take part in local politics, lobby your MP, MSP, MEP; join health groups such as Healthwatch (in England) or Community Health Partnerships (in Scotland). Don’t be afraid to talk about homeopathy – you’ll find people are very interested in a holistic therapy with no side-effects.
And, of course, encourage your friends and family to join the BHA; the gift of an annual subscription would make an inspired birthday or Christmas
Despite the challenges that homeopathy faces, are you optimistic about the long-term future of the therapy?
Yes, I’m a glass half-full kind of person. I’m very sure the wheel will turn again: homeopathy has too much to offer to be ignored. We need to persuade
politicians and policy makers within the NHS that it’s an effective, safe and economic complement to the conventional treatments which are also required.
The big stumbling block to acceptance is that we have yet to explain satisfactorily how it works, but there are researchers who are currently addressing this issue. We all know that we are a sick society and the NHS now seems to concentrate more on disease than health; that needs to change so that once again people take responsibility as far as they can for their own health and well-being.
As well as campaigning for homeopathy, what other interests do you have?
Now that I’m retired I have more time for the things I’ve always enjoyed doing: golf, tennis, hill-walking, cycling, sailing, travelling, the arts. In April, about 100 of us are taking part in a 215-mile walk along the Southern Upland Way, to support a friend who is raising money for a Parkinson’s charity.
I’m also a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and I’m planning a tasting evening to benefit the BHA. I edit our local parish newsletter and I’m involved in our kirk’s very imaginative social and fund-raising committee – which is great fun.
My grown-up children are both professionals in the arts – my daughter is a classical pianist and my son is a stage manager in the West End – so my
husband and I get many opportunities to go to concerts and shows. And we also have a large garden!