Betsi Cadwaladr RCN Memorial Bench
Published: 01 August 2012
Official service for the memorial stone for Betsi Cadwaladr and Betsi Cadwaladr RCN Memorial Bench
Betsi Cadwaladr’s life and work will be celebrated on Thursday 2nd August with an official service at Abney Park Cemetery, London, where Betsi is buried, for the Betsi Cadwaladr memorial stone and Betsi Cadwaladr RCN memorial bench.
Besti Cadwaladr University Health Board has raised funds for a memorial stone in honour of their namesake and the RCN in Wales Welsh Board has raised funds for the Betsi Cadwaladr memorial bench.
Betsi, a 19th century nurse from Bala made a name for herself during the Crimean War and is the Royal College of Nursing in Wales’ adopted nurse heroine.
Born Elizabeth Davis in 1789, Betsi Cadwaladr was one of sixteen children and the daughter of a Methodist Preacher. She moved to Liverpool aged 14 and spent the early part of her life travelling around the world before eventually returning to London.
Learning of the conditions suffered by the British soldiers wounded in the Crimean War (1853-1856), Betsi joined the military nursing service. Her first post was in Scutari, working at a hospital run by Florence Nightingale. After working there for many weeks Betsi ran out of patience with the bureaucracy and red tape and made her way nearer to the frontline at Balaclava, falling out with Nightingale in the process.
Working in Balaclava, Betsi made progress against the unhygienic conditions and red tape that hampered her and impressed Nightingale.
In 1855, one year before the war ended, Betsi eventually returned home in suffering from cholera and dysentery. She died five years later in 1860, in London.
Professor Donna Mead OBE, Dean, Faculty of Health Sport and Science at University of Glamorgan said: "For me it has been a long and very personal journey which has culminated in the service on August 2nd. The journey began when I presented a seminar about Betsi to RCN Welsh Board on Nurses Day. Since then so much has happened and I have been moved by the way in which Welsh nurses have taken Betsi to heart and claimed her as their own.
She added: "Betsi Cadwaladr and Florence Nightingale were from different traditions with Nightingale respecting rules, regulations and bureaucracy and Betsi responding instinctively to the needs of injured soldiers as they arose (regardless of the regulations). In the end Nightingale came to respect the way in which Betsi worked tirelessly in order to provide care for her patients. Betsi was over 60 when she went to Balaclava and the hard work together with the privations of the field hospital at Balaclava rendered her so ill that she had to return home. Betsi was buried a pauper. The ignominy of such a burial is heartbreaking especially as Betsi paid such a high price for her relentless hard work and dedication at Balaclava. It cost her her health. On August 2nd 2012 Welsh Nurses will restore to Betsi, and those buried with her, the dignity which we all take for granted to have one's life acknowledged, remembered and celebrated. I couldn't be more proud."
Christine Thomas, Chair of the RCN Welsh Board and RCN Council Member for Wales said: "On behalf of the RCN Welsh Board who raised funds for the Betsi Cadwaladr RCN memorial bench I would like to thanks to all the nurses who contributed. I am glad that we have the opportunity to celebrate Betsi Cadwaladr in this way, RCN in Wales’ heroine and a great nurse leader who worked tirelessly for her patients."
Jill Galvani, Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Patient Services, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: "Upholding the legacy of Betsi Cadwaladr is important to nurses in the Health Board. Betsi was a person who represented the true value of nursing to soldiers who needed her. She wasn’t afraid to challenge poor care or any obstacle that stopped her giving excellent care. This is the approach we need from nurses in the Health Board."
Notes for Editors
For further information, please contact the RCN Wales Media Office on 029 20 680717, 029 20 680732 or email Jessica.email@example.com
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the voice of nursing across the UK and is the largest professional union of nursing staff in the world. The RCN promotes the interest of nursing staff and patients on a wide range of issues and helps shape healthcare policy by working closely with the UK Government and other national and international institutions, trade unions, professional bodies and voluntary organisations.