Marjorie Wallace (SANE)

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Marjorie Wallace

Marjorie Shiona Wallace.JPG
Marjorie Wallace
Marjorie Shiona Wallace

(1943-01-10) 10 January 1943 (age 76)
OccupationSANE Chief Executive
Notable work
See below
Spouse(s)Andrzej Skarbek
Partner(s)Tom Margerison
John Mills
Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon

Marjorie Shiona Wallace CBE, FRCPsych (Countess Skarbek) (born 10 January 1943 in Nairobi, Kenya) is a British writer, broadcaster, investigative journalist, and chief executive of SANE, a mental health charity that she founded in the UK in 1986.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Wallace was born in Nairobi, Kenya, where her father was a civil engineer surveying for the railway. Her mother was a trained classical pianist, but was unable to pursue her interest professionally.[2] After gaining a degree in Psychology and Philosophy from University College, London, Wallace worked as a trainee producer for ITV's The Frost Programme with David Frost (1966–68). She went on to become a religious programmes producer and a current affairs reporter for London Weekend Television (1969–72). While an investigative journalist and social services correspondent for The Sunday Times (1972–89), she wrote a series of articles in 1972 highlighting the financial and emotional plight of the Thalidomide children who had been born in the 1950s and 1960s with physical disabilities. As a result of this campaign, she met Terry Wiles, about whom she co-authored a biography, On Giant's Shoulders (1976). This was made into a BBC Play of the Week in 1979 in which Wallace was portrayed by Annabel Leventon.

Her other investigations as a Sunday Times journalist ranged from the failure of concrete systems building and the 'hot-housing' of genius children to the Dioxin disaster in Northern Italy about which she co-wrote the book, The Superpoison (1979).


Wallace founded the mental health charity SANE after writing a series of articles in The Times entitled "The Forgotten Illness" that highlighted the paucity of services and treatments for people suffering from schizophrenia. Initially focusing on schizophrenia, SANE is now concerned with all mental illnesses.

SANE raises money for people with mental health problems. It established The Prince of Wales International Centre for SANE Research in Oxford and pioneered the UK's first national out-of-hours mental health helpline, offering practical information and emotional support 365 days a year.

Wallace is the author of the 1986 book The Silent Twins, about June and Jennifer Gibbons,[3][4] and she wrote the screenplay for the film of the same name. She also wrote and presented the television documentaries Whose Mind is it Anyway? and Circles of Madness, and has lectured on the subject of mental illness.

Honours and awards[edit]

While a journalist for The Times, Wallace was awarded Campaigning Journalist of the Year for 1988.[5] She has also been awarded Medical Journalist of the Year and received a British Neuroscience Association award in 2002.[citation needed]

As a result of her "The Forgotten Illness" articles and her subsequent work in the mental illness field, she was elected an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2001.[citation needed] Wallace was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1994, and an honorary Doctorate of Science by City University, London in 2001. Since 2004, she has been a Fellow of University College, London.[6]

In 2006, she was selected as one of the 16 key achievers who had made a difference to the health of the nation for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery[7] and, two years later, was chosen as one of the 60 most influential people in shaping the history of the National Health Service.[8]

"She stands firmly and consciously in the tradition of 19th-century social reformers like Charles Dickens. For almost all her adult life she has been an outstanding campaigning journalist, and her greatest campaign of all has been on behalf of the most unloved and unwanted people - the mentally ill.” - Minette Marrin, journalist at The Sunday Times, writing about Wallace

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

Wallace was named as Outstanding Campaigner at the 2016 Women of the Year Awards, reflecting her campaigning on behalf of mentally ill people and their families in the UK over the past 30 years.[9]

"She has fearlessly fought for a better life for people who suffer with mental illnesses and their families, and has changed the health of the nation as a result. We are delighted to recognise such a successful and impassioned campaigner.” - Jane Luca, Chair of Women of the Year

Personal life[edit]

Wallace married the psychoanalyst Count Andrzej Skarbek, with whom she had three children: Sacha, Stefan and Justin. The couple later separated, although they did not divorce. Subsequently, she lived with the science writer and broadcaster Tom Margerison and their daughter, Sophia, in Highgate, North London. Margerison died in February 2014.[10]

In November 2015 Wallace was the guest for BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. Her favourite piece, chosen in dedication to her mother, was Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. Her other choices included "Ah! Dite alla giovine’" from La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi, "Sunrise in Your Eyes" by Sacha Skarbek and "Repentir" by Charles-François Gounod.[2]


  • 1976, On Giant's Shoulders: The Story of Terry Wiles, Marjorie Wallace and Michael Robson, London: Times Books, ISBN 0-7230-0146-4
  • 1979, Suffer the Children: The Story of Thalidomide, Marjorie Wallace, Phillip Knightley, Harold Evans, Elaine Potter, London: Viking Press, ISBN 0-7088-1708-4
  • 1979, The Superpoison, Marjorie Wallace, Tom Margerison and Dalbert Hallenstein, London: Macmillan, ISBN 0-3332-2797-2
  • 1986, The Silent Twins, New York: Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-345-34802-8


External links[edit]