Archive for September, 2015

Is the Seacole statue jinxed?

To the Mayor and Councillors of Lambeth; and
Sir Hugh Taylor and Sir Ron Kerr, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust; and
Cecilia Amin, president, and Janet Davies FRCN, chief executive, Royal College of Nursing; and
Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, PC, MP, Secretary of State for Health; and
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
September 2015

Sept. 14, 2015

Is the Seacole Statue Jinxed?

We note the “delay” in unveiling a Mary Seacole statue in the garden of Nightingale’s hospital, St Thomas’, announced by Lord Soley, chair of the Seacole memorial campaign. The cause was a shortfall of nearly £200,000, the result of “soaring” construction costs. Yet the site has already been cleared and was even “blessed”!! before the fundraising was completed. We ask:

  • Who authorized the site clearing, an ongoing eyesore? We understand that planning permission lapses after three years, over last April. Work should not have gone ahead without the full funding in place.
  • Who pays for filling in and fixing up the site? Will NHS health care money be diverted for this purpose?
  • The missing evidence for the “Pioneer Nurse” appellation. We have yet to receive an answer to our questions as to when and at what hospitals Seacole ever nursed, let alone gave her “life’s work” to developing nursing in England.
  • What impact will a statue, or an empty site for one, have on the Bicentenary celebration of Nightingale’s birth, to take place in 2020? Should nurses be told not to come to London for Bicentenary events? Or to avoid Lambeth and St Thomas’?


We suggest that it is time to rethink the project. We do not at all object to celebrating Seacole’s life, as a businesswoman, volunteer and the author of a fine memoir-which never claimed “pioneer nursing”-but not as the founder of nursing.

We note the ties Seacole had with her late husband’s family in Lambeth, notably of Florence Seacole Kent, who married and lived there. Why not a site where Seacole had a real connection? instead of the hospital where Nightingale founded the first nurse training school in the world?

Yours sincerely

To the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of the General Staff

To Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, and
Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the General Staff, September 2015

Lord Soley, as chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Fund Appeal, has announced that he has approached the army, not specifying at what level, regarding a memorial garden to be identified with Mary Seacole, with seats named in honour of nurses killed in conflict zones. Since there is a plan to have a Seacole statue in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital, perhaps the intention is to expand that site-currently an eyesore-for the purpose. Or perhaps he has asked the Army to find a site. Could you clarify if any inquiries are in progress?

You may or not be aware of the close connection of St Thomas’ Hospital with Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), who headed the first team of British women to nurse in war. The nursing school she founded at St Thomas’, the first in the world, and which trained army nurses as well as civilian, was paid for by a fund raised in her honour, largely by the army, late in the Crimean War. That site remained the headquarters of nursing for more than a century, sending out trained nurses to introduce professional standards in hospitals throughout Britain and the world.
Mary Seacole was a businesswoman who ran, in effect, an officers’ club 1855-56. It was not a hospital or clinic, and she did not nurse the sick and wounded on the battlefield, as is so often claimed. She visited the local Land Transport Corps Hospital, near her business, to distribute magazines at it and send the occasional treat. This voluntary work was much appreciated, but to confuse it with the founding of the modern profession of nursing is nonsense.

Mrs Seacole sometimes called a “battlefield nurse,” when her forays onto the battlefield happened on three occasions, post-battle, after selling sandwiches and wine to spectators. She missed the first three, major, battles of the war as she was busy in London attending to her gold-mining investments (she had previously been in Panama with a business for men heading for the California Gold Rush). This is perfectly clear in her memoir, but her campaigners instead claim that she rushed to London to volunteer as a nurse!

We would be happy to furnish further details if any consideration is to be given to this memorial garden proposal. A website is available:

There is much to be said for the idea of a memorial garden for nurses, but it should be linked to real nurses who did give their lives to nurse in war.

Yours sincerely
(signed by 15 members of the Nightingale Society)