Posts filed under “Seacole statue”

To Simon Stevens, CEO, NHS England

Simon Stevens, CEO

Dear Mr Stevens

Re: Mary Seacole Statue to be Erected
Work is going ahead at St Thomas’ Hospital on the site for the proposed Mary Seacole statue, to be labelled “Pioneer Nurse,” on which we have raised vigorous objections (not to a statue anywhere, but not at Nightingale’s Hospital and not labelling a restaurant/bar owner a “Pioneer Nurse’).

Since the full amount of money has not been raised for the statue, we ask, will health care money go into paying for it?

We expect that, should the installation go ahead, the site will become in time a Monument to Political Correctness, or “Hugh and Ron’s Folly” Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of the Trust and Sir Ronald Kerr, chief executive, have been the great promoters of the statue. Their use of blatantly false material to defend use of the hospital site compounds the wrong. Should St Thomas’ be exempt from normal standards of objectivity, fairness and accuracy?

Nightingale wanted her nurses to be “truthful, honest and trustworthy,” which, apart from the redundancy, we think are still worthy qualities. She famously held that hospitals should, first of all, do no harm, and we might add that they, too, should be honest and trustworthy in their own statements.

Yours sincerely

To the CEO of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

Sir Ronald Kerr
Chief Executive Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
June 15, 2015

Dear Sir Ron

Thank you for your reply of June 9 2015.

We are very aware of the misinformation Lord Soley and his organization put out. If he has made any retractions or apologies, we would be glad to hear of them, so contact would be welcome. Thank you.

We note that the statue campaign website no longer displays the Crimean medal with 4 clasps, which Seacole did not win. However, no apology for the false claim has ever appeared.

That Lord Soley’s organization supplies misinformation does not justify the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust using it. We note that neither you nor Sir Hugh has ever given so much as one instance to justify the title “Pioneer Nurse” on the planned statue. We ask again. Failure to document any pioneering nursing should mean removal of the claim on the statue. Please respond.

We note your response that Trust funds will not go to funding the statue, but remain concerned about site preparation. Will a hole be left if the money is not raised? Who pays for looking after an empty site? Did anyone calculate the extra security that will likely be required when the statue loses its lustre? i.e., when political correctness no longer holds sway and people resent being taken in by your propaganda campaign?

Finally, we note the failure of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust ever to retract the misinformation it circulated in 2011 to justify the statue in the first place. We remain with Nightingale in the view that nurses should be “honest, truthful and trustworthy,” and would want the hospital of her school to meet this standard, too. That you have not requires attention and redress.

Yours sincerely


copy: Dr Ronald Trubuhovich, OMNZ, FRCA, FANZCA-whose letter to you with pertinent concerns remains unanswered

To the Chair and CEO of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust

Sir Hugh Taylor and Sir Ron Kerr

Dear Sirs

Re: Liability for the Mary Seacole Statue

We are concerned with the announcement that preparation of the site for the Mary Seacole statue is going ahead, even though not all the money has been raised to pay for it.

Who will be responsible for any gap in funding? Will health care money be redirected to pay the costs?

We inquire also about liability for maintenance if the installation goes ahead. What happens when the honeymoon is over, and people begin to realize that Mrs Seacole was not the “Pioneer Nurse” claimed? Or that she was not a “black nurse,” for she did not identify as a black or African but rather disparaged those roots while she praised her Scottish heritage. This is understandable given the mores of the time, but it hardly makes for a good role model.

What happens when Seacole’s own words come to be suspect, as in her statement that, if her skin ‘had been as dark as any nigger’s,” she “should have been just as happy and as useful” (Seacole, Wonderful Adventures p. 48) and her references to her “good-for-nothing black cooks” (p. 141).

Who is responsible if the site becomes a location for drinking and damage, after the honeymoon is over? “Mrs Seacole’s” was effectively an officers’ club, never a hospital, as so often claimed, a source for champagne, fine wines, meals, sherry and catering for officers’ dinner parties. When a writer visited the Crimea years after the war he recalled going past the site, where there was an “immense heap of broken bottles by the roadside… all that was left behind of Mrs Seacole’s famous store” (Arnold, From the Levant, the Black Sea and the Danube 2:184).

The broken bottles may indeed have been the result of Mrs Seacole’s own hammering “case after case” of red wine, when she could not sell it when it was time to go home (p. 196).

The Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, alas, gave such an fallacious presentation of Seacole’s life that people may not realize the risks of the truth coming out, as it often does. Statues can acquire a negative meaning as times change.

Yours sincerely

To the National Union of Teachers

We are writing with concern about the NUT’s support for the Mary Seacole Statue Campaign, and teaching on her in the National Curriculum. We do not oppose honouring Seacole in either way, but the associated misinformation campaign. A status of Seacole is a worthy honour, and the sculptor chosen a fine one. However it should not be labeled “Pioneer Nurse,” portray her with medals, which she did not win, nor ever claim to have, and should not be placed at St Thomas’ Hospital, for more than a century the site of Nightingale’s School, the pioneering nursing school that improved nursing throughout the world.

Has the NUT supported the ongoing inclusion of Nightingale in the National Curriculum? We ask you to, if you have not. She not only was the major founder of the modern profession of nursing, but she was a great public health reformer, which Seacole never was, and never claimed to be. In 1864 Nightingale called for quality care for all, regardless of ability to pay, and argued for the replacement of the harsh Poor Law, which sent people to workhouses, in favour of humane agencies that would provide care for the aged, the sick and infirm. No child should ever be in a workhouse, she said–surely you would agree.

Yet Seacole is included as a nurse, pioneer and health care advocate, with medals no less. She was a decent and generous person, a businesswoman who ran a restaurant/bar/store/takeaway service for officers–a legitimate business–but not a hospital or clinic for soldiers, as she is now said to have done, and which she never claimed. For an exposé of common errors in portraying her see

Seacole was honoured post-war for her kindness, and officers raised a fund to support her in her old age. The recent campaign, however, changes all that to her being honoured for heroism, and she is given credit for all the work Nightingale did to bring in better standards of cleanliness and nutrition to the war hospitals and improve the lives of ordinary soldiers.

Has the NUT supported the ongoing inclusion of Nightingale in the National Curriculum? We ask you to do so. This is not either/or with Seacole. The two were different people and each should be honoured for her merits. For Nightingale, inclusion also means highlighting a woman adept at statistics and public policy, a needed model (there aren’t many) for girls at school.

To Sir Robert McAlpine

To Sir Robert McAlpine

Sir Robert McAlpine
Eaton Court
Maylands Av
Hemel Hempstead, Herts HP2 7TR

January 20, 2013

Dear Sir Robert

We understand that you have agreed to construct the planned statue of Mary Seacole for St Thomas’ Hospital at cost, thereby saving the promoters of the statue a considerable sum. Generous as this is of you, we wonder what you have against Florence Nightingale.

We wish to make clear that we do not oppose the erection of a Seacole statue, but rather to the dishonest portrayal of her. The planned statue is to show her wearing medals, which in fact she never won. True, she wore medals, and had her portrait painted, photographs taken and a bust sculpted wearing them-but none of them were hers.

The statue is to name her “Pioneer Nurse,” at Nightingale’s hospital no less, the site of her school, the first secular nurse training school in the world, and for more than a century the base from which she sent out teams of nurses to bring in new standards of patient care throughout the world. Yet Seacole was not a nurse at all, and never claimed to be. She called herself a “doctress,” meaning herbalist (although she was known to add such toxic substances as lead acetate and mercury chloride to her remedies, which of course were not harmless herbals).

You as a leading figure in the construction industry might be interested to know that Nightingale was a major force in reforming hospital architecture in the late 19th century-when death rates of patients per admissions averaged 10%. She influenced the design of the St Thomas’ opened in 1871, which was a world leader in design. Three of the old pavilions still stand (the others were bombed in World War II). What a curious place to install a statue honouring another person as the “Pioneer Nurse”!

We urge you to make your donation of costs contingent on the statue being honest: no medals and no claim of “Pioneer Nurse,” and placement somewhere other than St Thomas’ Hospital.

Yours sincerely

To HRH the Duchess of Cornwall

To HRH the Duchess of Cornwall

HRH the Duchess of Cornwall
Clarence House
London SW1 1BA

December 10, 2012


We have written to HM the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cambridge and HRH Princess Alexandra concerning the projected placement of a statue to honour Mary Seacole as the “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ Hospital: the Queen particularly as she has already opened the Mary Seacole Building at Brunel University; Princess Alexandra as it has been suggested that the Palace would ask her to unveil the statue planned for St Thomas’ Hospital. We believe that you should be informed as well, in case you are asked to open a building or unveil a statue.

We wish to make clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole for her own work, but rather her being credited with the achievements of Florence Nightingale, and more widely, entirely fictional achievements, such as being awarded three medals for bravery during the Crimean War.

Nightingale was demonstrably not only Britain’s “pioneer nurse” but the major founder of nursing throughout the world. Even the design of St Thomas’ Hospital was influenced by her, and can be seen in the three pavilions that survived bombing in the Second World War. The 1871 hospital originally built on the site was opened by Queen Victoria. It was of the then innovative, safe “pavilion” design, and architects came from America and Europe to see it.

The fact that St Thomas’ faces Parliament only adds to the offence, for Seacole had nothing to do with political change for health care, while Nightingale throughout her life wrote briefs for Parliament and lobbied Cabinet members and MPs on needed reforms.

On the misinformation now in circulation about Seacole see On Nightingale see:

We understand the desire of many people to celebrate a black heroine. However, we do not believe that the work and reputation of another person should be denigrated in the process, or that false “information” should be used to justify the claims made for the honouree.

A reply by your staff would be appreciated: to

Yours sincerely

To Sir Hugh Taylor

Dear Sir Hugh

I appreciate your giving Wendy Mathews and myself time for a meeting in April this year. Since then, as you know, the Lambeth Planning Committee approved the placing of that massive Seacole statue at St Thomas’. Since then also a group has been formed, The Nightingale Society, to promote understanding of Nightingale’s work and reputation, and to contradict misinformation circulated about them.

You stated at our meeting that the board intended no disrespect to Nightingale with its promotion of Seacole. You seemed to be under the misimpression that the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign was as high minded. You mentioned specifically that Lord Soley never spoke against Nightingale, nor are we aware that he has. Other members of the campaign, however, have and do, notably the vice-chair, Professor emeritus Elizabeth Anionwu, the major spokesperson in the Nursing Standard and in the various films and electronic material supporting the campaign.

Prominent in the Seacole campaign is the nursing union Unison, which in 1999 voted to “ditch” Nightingale as the model of nursing. Its spokesperson gave as reasons the fact that Nightingale was “white, middle class and Protestant.” Unison’s president and its head of nursing were named respectively Patron and Ambassador for the campaign.

The BBC “Knowledge” film on Seacole, in which Anionwu is the presenter, makes disparaging remarks about Nightingale and compares her unfavourably with Seacole. For example, Seacole is said to have won 4 medals for bravery, while Nightingale won none, when in fact Queen Victoria gave Nightingale a medal, which she never wore, and Seacole won no medals, although she wore three or four after the war in London–it was not then a criminal offence to wear military medals not your own, although it would be now.

Anionwu’s many articles and interviews in the Nursing Standard also make unfavourable comparisons, such as that Seacole got on well with her “medical colleagues,” while Nightingale did not (Anionwu 2010 18), although Nightingale worked for decades after the war with doctors she first knew there, and there is no evidence that any doctor recognized Seacole as a “medical colleague,” although several acknowledged her kindness, and liked her food at the British Hotel.

In the meeting Mrs Mathews and I had with you, you thought that the hospital website could acknowledge Nightingale’s importance and relevance for the hospital. When? How can we help?

I repeat my offer to give your board a briefing on Nightingale and Seacole, when I am next in London, and several well-informed people are available now who could give you a briefing.

To Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary

Dear Mr Lansley

We are writing with concern about the decision made by the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust board of directors to approve the use of a “prestigious” site at St Thomas’ for the placement of a statue honouring Mary Seacole. We do not at all oppose the honouring of Mrs Seacole with a statue, but its placement at St Thomas’, Nightingale’s hospital.

The decision was made with flagrant disregard of due process. The then chair of the board was Patricia Moberly, a government appointee (by a previous government). Experts were not consulted, nor were the governors or staff consulted or even informed. The Nightingale Fellowship, whose members were trained at St Thomas’ when it was the home of the Nightingale School, was similarly excluded.

  • 23 November 2005, a note from the chair, Patricia Moberly, for the directors meeting, reports the approach by the Seacole Statue Appeal and agreement “that we should explore without commitment the possibility of a position on the St Thomas’ site,” the board to be informed “as the discussions progress.”
  • 25 April 2007, at a board meeting, the director of Capital, Estates and Facilities (hardly an expert on the history of nursing) asked for and received approval for the celebration of the nursing work of both Seacole and Nightingale, although there was still to be exploration as to the “viability” of the development.
  • 23 January 2008, at a board meeting the decision was announced as a fait accompli: “commitment to support a Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’”.

The current hospital board has added to the violation of due process by issuing blatantly false information used in support of the earlier board’s decision (see below).

The placement of the statue at St Thomas’ was approved by the Lambeth Planning Committee at a meeting 12 April 2012, however at this meeting no consideration was given to the merits of honouring Seacole there, any connection she might have had with the hospital (none); only purely technical matters were allowed, and there were no technical objections. Some of us sent letters of objection to the planning officer, but these were dismissed, reasonably enough, as not pertinent to the committee’s terms of reference.

We have appealed to the current chair of the board of directors, Sir Hugh Taylor, but he simply ignores letters objecting to a decision made by his predecessor and an earlier board. Two of us had a meeting with him early in April 2012, but he seemed quite unfamiliar with our objections, even to the misinformation campaign–he preferred simply to go along with the earlier decision.

In addition to St Thomas’ being the home base for Nightingale’s work on nursing, she substantially influenced the design of the 19th century hospital, when it was a pioneer of the pavilion, safer, mode of hospital construction. (Three of the pavilions still stand: the others were destroyed in World War II and the new hospital is of the current high-right design).

Placement of the statue opposite the Houses of Parliament compounds the insult to Nightingale, who got two royal commissions established, greatly contributed to their work, wrote a brief for a major Parliamentary committee on workhouse infirmaries, and influenced Cabinet ministers and MPs on numerous matters of public health. As concerns about hospital safety and good patient care continue to be salient matters of public policy, it would be well to have her gaze at the Houses of Parliament unimpeded by a replacement, who did none of those things.

We note that Seacole herself had no grudge against Nightingale and made no claim to have pioneered nursing. We note that alternative sites have been suggested and are available for a Seacole statue, that do not disregard Nightingale’s great work and its home base.

We urge that you direct the Guy’s-St Thomas’ board of directors to withdraw the offer of a site for the Seacole statue at St Thomas’, withdraw the false statements it made to justify that offer, and issue a corrected statement to explain why the site is inappropriate for the purpose of honouring Seacole.

To David Cameron

Dear Prime Minister

Florence Nightingale’s work was in so many respects for the whole nation and indeed for the better health of the world, without regard to party (she was a lifelong Liberal supporter, but of course worked with ministers of both parties). Perhaps the fact that you have a daughter with her name reflects an appreciation of her vision and work.

We forward you a copy of a letter sent to your secretary for health regarding the decision of the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust board to give a “prestigious” site at St Thomas’ for a gigantic statue to honour another person, Mary Seacole, a statue of sufficient size to be seen from Parliament. As explained in the copied letter, we have no objection to honouring Seacole, but rather to her designation as the “Pioneer Nurse,” when she never claimed to be a nurse at all, at St Thomas’ Hospital, home of Nightingale’s truly pioneering nursing work.

The international dimensions of the insult need also to be considered. Contributions to the Nightingale Fund, which paid for the Nightingale School, came from around the world, and Nightingale repaid that obligation by sending out trained nurses to the world–beginning with Australia, Canada, America and Europe. Japanese nurses, notably, still visit St Thomas’ Hospital to pay tribute to the source of their own profession. Yet the plan is for another person to be the visible “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ and to correct the misinformation it has circulated.

This becomes a matter of government responsibility given that the decision was made, in flagrant disregard of due process and any considerations of due diligence, by an NHS board of government appointment. We urge that the present board be directed to withdraw the offer of a site for the Seacole statue.

To HRH Princess Alexandra

To HRH Princess Alexandra, in her role as patron of the Florence Nightingale Museum

Your Royal Highness

We write with concern about the projected placement of a statue to honour Mary Seacole as the “Pioneer Nurse” at St Thomas’ Hospital. Press reports state that you have been designated the person to unveil this statue. Yet you are a patron of the Florence Nightingale Museum and of the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

We wish to make it clear that we do not oppose honouring Seacole for her own life and work, but rather the appropriating to her the work of Florence Nightingale, who was not only Britain’s “pioneer nurse” but the major founder of nursing throughout the world, work based at St Thomas’ Hospital. The hospital design itself was influenced by Nightingale–the three pavilions not destroyed in World War II plus the governors’ court and chapel. The hospital originally built on the site was of the then innovative, safe “pavilion” design, and architects came from America and Europe to see it.

The fact that St Thomas’ faces Parliament only adds to the offence, for Seacole had nothing to do with political change for health care, while Nightingale throughout her life wrote briefs for Parliament and lobbied Cabinet members and MPs on key needed reforms.

The board of the Guy’s-St Thomas’ NHS Trust made its decision in favour of a statue on the basis of massive misinformation provided to it by the Seacole Memorial Appeal Campaign, misinformation which it then further circulated. For further information see

We understand the desire of many people to celebrate a black heroine and make her a role model, but we do not believe that the end justifies the means, that the work and reputation of anyone else should be denigrated in the process, or that false “information” should be used to justify the claims made for the honoree.