Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Nursing Churchill


The recent television drama about the concealment of 78 year old Prime Minister Churchill’s debilitating stroke was to show him being nursed by a Nurse Appleyard.  I briefly wondered if there might be a connection with the Sister Appleyard whose First World War service in at least Alexandria and Constantinople is recorded on the Great Coates War Memorial – until it was clear that Churchill’s Nurse Appleyard was a much younger fictional character named after a cricketing hero of the writer.

But Peter Chapman’s column in the Grimsby Telegraph then identified a different Great Coates link with nursing Churchill in the Second World War.  I discover from him that the Betty Smethurst, whose large grave is near St Nicolas’ south door, is the Elizabeth Lavinia Clark whose story and blurred picture I was then able to find in the January 1944 issue of The British Journal of Nursing.  She was flown from Alexandria to nurse him at Marrakech when he became ill at the Casblanca Conference.

Having failed to connect my Appleyards, I’ve now also failed to connect my Smethursts.  It is a Lancashire surname, but a Henry Smethurst (a fell monger, that is a dealer in pelts) was born in Newark in 1820 and a William Smethurst (a roper, that is a maker of ropes) was born in Bottesford, Leicestershire the following year.  It is Henry who went on to be Mayor of Grimsby, whose prominent memorial stands in People’s Park, whose son Henry married a cousin of Docea Chapman (they were both Wintringhams) and whose great-grandson married Betty Clark.  But there isn’t a connection between this family and the east window in St Michael’s which was put there in memory of William’s son Joseph.

Addition on 14th May.  The two Smethurst families do connect and they do so in the most simple way possible.  Henry and William were brothers.  Their father Samuel was a Hawker - and one of the things I'd failed to spot is that Newark, Notts and Bottesford, Leics (where the brothers were born) are actually only six miles apart.  Samuel was born in Oldham, so the Lancastrian root is not far back at all.  So - the Henry Smethurst commemorated by a monument in People's Park and the Joseph Smethurst commemorated by a window in St Michael's are uncle and nephew.