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