Sister Dora is a beloved, dear heroine of Walsall; remembered long after her passing, she is a local legend whose memory shines like a light in the grim, darkened industrial past of Walsall. Her statue – finally restored to it’s rightful place on The Bridge, in the town centre – still sees regular laying of flowers and visits by those interested in the remarkable history it records.
So much better is the statue than the grim environment of Queen Street cemetery where the good sister rests in a simple grave, the state of which shames our town.
We touched on the Sister Dora story in the story of the Birchills Iron Works, where she nursed the injured and dying following an explosion, as she did with so many of the horrifically injured victims of industrial accidents in the town. This continual, selfless work made Sister Dorothy Pattison a respected, loved and remarkable lady.
Recently, that there rapscallion Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler was rooting in the newspaper archive when he came upon a publication he’d not spotted before: A London weekly paper called The Graphic, which is a bit more like a news magazine than a paper. It’s a remarkable thing indeed, and contains some excellent reports, including the one below, from 16th October 1886, about the unveiling of the statue to Sister Dora.
I have something even more more wonderful to come from this paper tomorrow. Thanks to Peter for yet another great contribution.
SISTER DORA Dorothy Wyndlow Patttson was born at Hauxwell, Yorkshire, of which parish her father was Rector, on January 16, 1832. She was the youngest but one of twelve children, and the late Rev. Mark Pattison was her brother. She was of good birth, well educated, comparatively wealthy, and fond of rural pleasures, yet she deliberately, from an overwhelming sense of duty, spent the prime of her life in the smoky atmosphere of Walsall, engaged in the most trying branch of hospital nursing, and displaying such surpassing devotion and courage in her work that in a few years her name became widely known and honoured. She began her labours at Walsall in 1865, but she had previously had some experience of nursing, both at home and at a small cottage hospital. The Walsall Cottage Hospital, when she went to it in 1865 as a member of the Sisterhood of Good Samaritans, contained fourteen beds. In 1868 a larger hospital with twenty-eight beds was opened, and, though all the beds were almost invariably occupied, she undertook all the nursing, with the assistance only of an old servant of the family, and of lady pupils who went to her from time to time. The patients, mainly colliers and navvies, were generally treated for injuries received in accidents, and Sister Dora acquired such skill that medical men frequently availed themselves of her assistance in surgical operations. She super-intended the preparation of the patients’ meals, and frequently served them, she dressed the wounds of the indoor-patients, devoted several hours daily to the outdoor-patients, read prayers, read and told stories, while she rarely got an unbroken night’s rest, being always liable to be rung up. Besides all this, she did a great deal in mission and other work outside the hospital; she nursed the people during a smallpox epidemic, and was utterly reckless of her own health, often working for hours together in wet clothes, because she had no time to change them. She was by no means impervious against infectious diseases—’I always catch everything that’s going,’ she said to a friend; and she had several serious illnesses. In 1876 Sister Dora discovered that she was suffering from cancer, but she kept the discovery a secret from all except her medical advisers, and worked bravely on. In August, 1878, she was compelled lo stop, and on the following Christmas Eve she entered into her rest.
A statue in honour of this devoted lady was unveiled on Monday last at Walsall, the scene of her untiring labours. The proceedings at Walsall on Monday began with a procession which started from the Cottage Hospital, and went to the Bridge, where the statue had been erected. The statue, which was executed by Mr. F. J. Williamson, is of white Sicilian marble, 7 feet to inches high. It stands on a pedestal of red Portland granite, enriched with four panels illustrative of incidents in the life of the heroine. Sister Dora herself is represented in her Sister’s cap, dress, and apron, holding in her hand a partially rolled bandage. The likeness is said to be admirable. The statue was unveiled by Councillor Beebee, chairman of the statue committee, amid the cheering of thousands of spectators. Walsall was decorated and illuminated, and several entertainments were given both to rich and poor.
Our engraving is from a photograph of the statue taken by W. Bates, East Street, Chertsey.