THE man who led a North Yorkshire hospice into a new era has retired at the age of 61.

Bob Clarke, chief executive of St Catherine's Hospice in Scarborough, has stepped down because of ill health after seeing his dream of the move to new premises in Throxenby Lane fulfilled.

He told a room packed with friends that he was leaving with a heavy heart.

"This is a very sad day for me," he said.

"It has been great fun working here because we all work together as a team. We all really believe in why we are here and we want to make it right for the patients. It's wonderful to be part of that."

Mr Clarke is retiring through ill health following heart surgery. Formerly in the RAF, he joined St Catherine's in 1997 and soon began planning the new hospice.

His successor is Lee Barker, who was convinced of St Catherine's merits the moment she was given a tour of the new building.

"I was just so impressed with the range of facilities and the care that could be provided that it made me even more determined to get the job," she said.

Lee has been a long-time supporter of the hospice during her 22 years in the Scarborough area, attending events like its renowned fund-raising ball.

But she saw first hand what hospice care means to countless families when her own mother fell ill. She died in the hospice two years ago.

Lee, 44, is an accountant. She has held various posts in industry including work as a finance director. She also worked for the Rural Development Commission and, during her time there, became a volunteer mentor, helping young people being supported by the Prince's Trust.