Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thora Silverthorne - Progressive Nursing Leader - 100th Anniversary

Thora Silverthorne 25th November 2010 will mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Thora Silverthorne. To celebrate this event a wreath will be laid at Reading Town Hall and a remembrance event will be held in the Thora Silverthorne rooms at UNISON Offices in Reading.

Thora Silverthorne

Nurses’ leader and International Brigader,

Thora Silverthorne was born in Abertillery on the 25th November 1910. She was the daughter of George Richard Silverthorne, a miner at the Vivian & Six Bells Pit and Sarah Boyt of Bargoed. Her early years were spent at 170 Alma Street, Abertillery, she secured a scholarship to Nataglo County School (Hafod) and attended the local Baptist church run by Pastor Rev Ivor Evans. She joined the Young Communist League at 16 and, when she was old enough, the Abertillery Communist Party. Her father was a founder member of the local Communist Party and active in the miners union. Thora chaired meetings with prominent speakers such as Arthur Horner, the miners’ leader. "Everyone in Abertillery talked politics," she was to say of these times.

With her mother’s early death, as one of seven children, she was forced to leave Abertillery for England. Initially she worked as a nanny for the local Labour MP, but also fitted in selling the Daily Worker to the local railwaymen.

She then followed her sister into nursing at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford and was involved in Communist Party activities in the city. She participated with her close friend Christopher Hill in the October Club. The health needs of the hunger marchers that passed through Oxford on their way to London were tended to by her “helping her self to bandages and dressings on the wards”. She recalled that “Their feet were often in particularly bad state.”In 1935 Thora secured a Sister’s post at Hammersmith hospital and worked closely with Dr Charles Wortham Brook and his wife, also a nurse, Iris. In 1935 Thora secured a Sister’s post at Hammersmith hospital and worked closely with Dr Charles Wortham Brook and his wife, also a nurse, Iris.and joined NUCO Guild of Nurses

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War she volunteered to nurse, and was "elected" Matron at Granen hospital, caring for many anti-fascist German soldiers in the Thaelmann Centuria. The International Brigader, Michael Livesey, died in her - arms a memory she never forgot. Later, she was herself drafted into the International Brigade.

On her return she married Dr Kenneth Sinclair-Loutit, who she had met in Spain, where he was the medical unit's administrator They lived at 12 Great Ormond Street. Loutit was elected as a “unity front” Councillor prior to the War for Holborn, London. Her involvement as sub editor of Nursing Illustrated led her to establish a nurses union (The National Nurses Association). This was a consciously progressive union for nurses in direct competition with the reactionary (Royal) College of Nursing. The RCN and hospital managers attacked her as “not being a registered nurse” or “paid by Moscow”, during the late 1930s. With the help of Communist Party nurses such as Nancy Blackburn (Zinkin), the Association ran a very high profile campaign to highlight the poor pay and conditions of nurses. The Association latter amalgamated with NUPE. Bryn Roberts, the General Secretary of that union was a native of Abertillery and a man whom Thora admired.

After the war she became a union official in the Civil Service Association. As Secretary of the Socialist Medical Association, she met Attlee and other Ministers to discuss the establishment of the NHS in 1948. She married Nares Craig (a relative of Lord Craigavon)  a member of the CP’s architect group (also Cambridge night climber) and retired to Llanfyllin, Powys, North Wales for 25 years. Clive Jenkins and Frank Cousins were regular visitors there. Thora returned to London, to be close to her daughter Lucy Craig/Best (a Haringey Labour Councillor), a few years before her death on 17th January 1999.

The funeral service at Marylebone cemetery on 25th January heard `the Valley of Jarama’, `The Internationale’, Cwm Rhondda and a recording of the Welsh hymn “Land of my fathers” by Paul Robeson

Keep The NHS Working

UNISON Keep our NHS Working and NHS Together Lobby of Parliament Summer 2006.

Pat McManus (Central Middx) , Desiree Clark and the late Lesley Kumarasamy
(Kingston Primary Care Trust).

A Tribute to Lesley Kumarasamy,

UNISON Rep Kingston PCT

Longest surviving member of Kingston PCT of 33 years!

It is with deep sorrow and sadness that we have to say goodbye to a very special person who lost her life suddenly with cancer and died at Kingston hospital on Saturday 6th January 2007. The funeral was at Kingston Vale on Saturday 13th January where many tributes were made to her life. She leaves her husband, Kumar, two daughters Eleanor who is married to Dan, and Erin. She also leaves her mother, Alison who is in her eighties. Hundreds of mourners attended to pay their respects to a kind, caring and exceptional lady.

Lesley was well known throughout the local community of Tolworth an active member of St George’s church in Hamilton Avenue where she had many friends and helped in the Sunday school

She joined Kingston PCT on 24th September 1973 and had worked there for an amazing 33 years. She started as an Occupational Therapy (OT) assistant in the Day Hospital for Older People, running therapeutic groups such as reminiscence, cookery, arts and crafts and, yes, a bit of basket weaving! Following further training Lesley continued her work as an OT Technical Instructor on the in-patient rehabilitation wards. She really enjoyed her work with older people and always promoted the value of OT. She also valued her friends and colleagues very highly and enjoyed being part of the OT and Ward Team.

Lesley is remembered in her superb OT uniform of green trousers, white tunic and “dangly earrings”…

Lesley was extremely hard-working and recently represented OT as the union steward for Unison where she met many new friends including Desiree Clark who recalls the day they went to the Unison AGM at Tolworth hospital five years ago to find out who their local rep was only to be told “there isn’t one so maybe you would both like to join”. That was the moment when a great friendship and bond began including signing up new members, giving advice and support to members, representing staff side at meetings, rallying in Brighton and Parliament against the recent NHS cuts, talks with the local MP, Edward Davey, about the changes happening across the PCT and local community. Lesley also became her branch chair. She showed great enthusiasm, dedication and care in her work - above and beyond the call of duty.

Over the years she touched so many people’s lives and she was always smiling and never grumbled. She was a wonderful person who was generous and kind, but above all “genuine”.

Everyone will miss her dearly and she will be forever in our thoughts…….

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UNISON 9/11 Ribbon and Badge

UNISON Nurses handing out 9/11 ribbons at 2002 TUC Congress at Blackpool

UNISON 9/11 Badge from September 2001 worn by London emergency services staff.

UNISON working with SEIU