Kathleen Whelan

Windlesora 30 (2014)

Sadly, Kathleen Margaret Whelan died on 16th November 2013, leaving behind a great many people for the better for having touched their lives. She will be sorely missed as a member of the Windsor Local History Group.

Kath was a career nurse. She started her training as an Orthopaedic Nursing in Oxford in 1945, at a time when servicemen were returning injured from combat. It is reported she was part of many an escapade there with fellow nurses and young servicemen, including smuggling out a young paralyzed male patient for a nocturnal outing on a punt in the river. She undertook her general nursing training in the West London Hospital where she remained for eighteen years, soon becoming Sister in Charge and then Nursing Officer.

Her patients were her priority, and they always came first. When a member of the Royal Family was visiting the hospital, Kath is reported to have said they couldn’t visit her ward, ‘It is the cup final and my men will want to watch that!’.

Kath was also a wonderful teacher, and taught as she nursed, explaining the reasons and theory behind the procedure. She was very proud to have brought the first patient into the new Charing Cross building in 1973, where she was Senior Nursing Officer. In 1983 she moved to Windsor to become Matron of HRH Princess Christian Hospital, finally retiring from this, her first clinical post, in 1989.

Kath continue her lifelong career in nursing by becoming a Nurse Historian, charting the history of the Princess Christian Hospital, and this remit encompassed the Windsor District Nursing Service, and the Princess Christian Army Nursing Reserve. She was central in the preservation of many and varied ‘nursing documents and artifacts, ensuring they were not destroyed, and were stored in the most appropriate and accessible places. She was persistent in her search for important pieces of nursing history and determined they should be preserved for future generations. Examples of this include the plaque which commemorates the West London nurses who died in World War Two, which was saved from the WLH Chapel. The Book of Remembrance for these nurses was also preserved a brought back from the Royal College of Nursing in Edinburgh to be displayed in a glass case below the memorial plaque. Another example is the set of minute books from the Princess Christian Hospital which she located just before they would have been lost to posterity. She would be so proud to know that they have rebound by the Royal bookbinder and are now housed in Cumberland Lodge.

The crown & crest of HRH Princess Christian’s Hospital

Nursing was not left behind, however, as her passion for nursing filled her retirement, along with a keen interest and extensive knowledge of classical music, and a love of architecture and art. She lived her life by the motto ‘friends are the family we chose for ourselves’, and Kath’s chosen family was vast. She was remarkable, a ‘one-off’, loyal, kind, and generous. She was a wonderful friend and aunt, and treasured memories will make her sorely missed but not forgotten.

From Alison’s Guest tribute