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Cancer patient’s £2m legacy for Queen’s research

Tom Simms was an ordinary man who wanted to do something inspirational. So when the self-made millionaire underwent treatment for bowel cancer he decided to do something extraordinary.

The Carrickfergus man changed his will shortly before he died, leaving £2m to Queen’s University in Belfast — one of the largest donations it has ever received.

When Mr Simms was diagnosed last December he received world-class care at the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital.

During the next few months he had several talks with his doctor Richard Wilson.

Dr Wilson, who is also the director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Clinical Trials Unit, said: “Mr Simms asked me: ‘If someone were to give more money, what would it be used for?’

“We talked about supporting clinical research and how choosing better individual treatments would lead to a higher cure rate. Patients would live longer with a better quality of life.

“I explained that usually with funding there were limitations. Having money that may be potentially for staff, lab testing, accessing new drugs or personalised treatments allows flexibility.

“I knew that a donation was coming but the amount was never discussed until close to the end. Mr Simms appreciated that he had been very fortunate in life and wanted to give back to the community.

“He knew that he could have divided the money between charities. But he felt that giving a large sum to the Queen’s Foundation could encourage other people in Northern Ireland to do the same.”

They agreed that the Foundation would be the best place for a donation.

So shortly before he died aged 80, he altered his will to donate £2m to the university.

Kerry Bryson, head of Alumni Relations at Queen’s, said: “It was one of the largest legacies we’ve ever received. It was mind-blowingly generous. He was a very ordinary man who wanted to do something inspirational. The university is looking at ways to honour Tom’s name in the Cancer Centre.”

Mr Simms never married but had a large circle of in-laws, cousins, nieces and nephews with whom he was very close.

His sister Rita (88) and brother Jonathan (91) survive him. Mr Simms cared for them before his illness developed.

The youngest of 10 sons and one daughter, Mr Simms made his fortune as a founding partner of Rubber and Plastics Products Northern Ireland Limited.He retired in 1992.

A keen local historian he left Carrickfergus Historical Society £3,000 and his collection of local historical information and paintings to Carrickfergus Grammar School. He also left £15,000 to the Mid-Antrim |Animal Sanctuary.

He also left £500,000 to Carrickfergus rugby club, where his nephew Jerry Simms is the president.

He said: “Uncle Tom was a dedicated supporter. It was his desire to have somewhere, that when you drove up, you were proud to look at. The grounds will be renamed in his memory.”

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