Sunday, 3 May 2009

One of the Intrepid Band

I'm not sure what people imagine a 'military nurse' was like. At present I'm starting a database of nurses, and trying to find out more about the lives and families of some of those who served at any time after 1870. Already I've come across some very ordinary women, and also a number of rather remarkable ones, often with family histories that I would love to be part of myself, rather than my own long line of agricultrual labourers and gypsies. On my list of members of the Army Nursing Service [pre-1903] was the name 'Fellowes, M. A.', and a note next to her entry in the Royal Red Cross Register led me on to her obituary in The Times, and to some further family information. She was born Margaret Augusta Kirkland, in Rothesay, Bute, in 1845, the daughter of General John Vesey Kirkland and Susan (née Paterson). She died on the 29th September 1931, and the following obituary appeared in The Times on Monday 5th October 1931. Just to add that her second husband Sir George Makins was consulting surgeon to the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders between 1914-17, and held the honorary title of Surgeon-General - he survived his wife by two years, dying on 2nd November 1933.


Lady Makins, whose death was announced in The Times last week, was a link with Florence Nightingale, under whose supervision she received her training as a nurse. Endowed with much natural ability and great energy combined with exceeding grace of manner and sweetness of temperament, she had every opportunity, by wide travel, of enlarging her sympathies, increasing her knowledge of life and social conditions, and acquiring that poise and self-confidence that make for leadership. From early years she accompanied her father, General Vesey Kirkland, wherever he was engaged in military service, and was with him in Canada and South Africa. Later on, as the wife of General Fellowes, she resided in South Africa, the West Indies, and Ireland, and was a prominent figure in the social life which surrounds the holders of high military appointments. She was a bold cross-country rider to hounds, a fearless climber of great peaks, and enjoyed all the activities of country life.

After the death of General Fellowes in 1879, her desire turned to sick nursing, and in January 1880, she entered the Nightingale Training School, founded in 1860 by Miss Florence Nightingale at St. Thomas's Hospital, where Mrs. Wardroper, in her position of matron, had already instituted many nursing reforms. Miss Nightingale speedily recognized Mrs. Fellowes's outstanding nursing qualities and powers of leadership, and followed her training with close interest. Thus it was that after the intensive course of one year's training, Miss Nightingale deemed her fit to nurse at the seat of war, and selected her to accompany Sir Frederick Roberts's force to the Transvaal in February 1881, herself arranging all the details of travel and equipment with the utmost solicitude, even commending her to the personal care of General Roberts. In her parting letter, Miss Nightingale called her “My dear Cape of Good Hope,” a term she constantly repeated in subsequent letters.

On Mrs. Fellowes's return to England in June, 1881, she was appointed Sister-in-Charge of Leopold ward at St. Thomas's Hospital, but again her services were required for the troops, and in August, 1882, she was seconded to serve in the Egyptian War. Her offer of service was accepted by Sir Garnet Wolseley himself in a personal letter. Daily correspondence passed between Miss Nightingale and Mrs. Fellowes during the brief period of preparation, and frequent letters of counsel and encouragement reached her at the seat of war. In more than one letter Miss Nightingale wrote of her cherished hope that Mrs. Fellowes would devote her life to Army Nursing and to its reform, deeming her particularly suited for such a task. In March, 1883, Mrs. Fellowes was again back at her post in St. Thomas's Hospital. In 1884 she was among the first to receive from Queen Victoria the decoration of the Royal Red Cross, which had been instituted the year before.

In December, 1884, Mrs. Fellowes left St. Thomas's Hospital on her marriage to Sir George (then Mr.) Makins, the eminent surgeon, and her nursing career seemed ended. But she went again on active service in the South African War which broke out in 1899, and in which her ripe experience proved of much value. Though somewhat advanced in years at the outbreak of the Great War, Lady Makins devoted herself once more to hospital work, and was in charge of the Hospital for Facial Injuries in Park-lane, while she also did valuable service for the Soldiers' and Sailors' Family Fund and for the Red Cross. During peace time Lady Makins was constantly occupied in social work. She was actively interested in the Banstead Children's Home; she was almoner for the Charity Organization Society at Hoxton even as late as two years ago; and in her own parish she was district visitor and school manager. She retained to the last a lively interest in her training school, and no celebration there was complete without her presence. Her widespread sympathies and varied fields of activity made her known and loved by people of all classes, and those who had the privilege of her friendship will preserve an abiding memory of a gracious lady, who shared in her husband's interests and career to the very last.


And here is Margaret Fellowes' service record sheet from The National Archives:

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