Blue plaque for nurse who was ‘Mourne’s Florence Nightingale’

Margaret Anderson tended to the wounded of both world wars
Margaret Anderson tended to the wounded of both world wars

A blue plaque will be unveiled on Thursday in Co Down to a commemorate a nurse known as ‘Mourne’s Florence Nightingale’.

The Ulster History Circle plaque will be located at Mourne Presbyterian Church in Kilkeel to remember Margaret Anderson, who tended to the wounded during both world wars.

The plaque will be unveiled by a great nephew of Miss Anderson who is a member of the Mourne congregation.

Miss Anderson was born in the townland of Ballinran, Kilkeel on December 21, 1881, the eldest daughter of a family of seven daughters and one son.

At the age of 13 she went to Waringstown to work as a medical receptionist. From there she travelled to the Leeds Union Infirmary where she trained as a nurse.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Margaret offered her services and at once was accepted, joining the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Reserve.

For five years she worked in the Mount Dore Military Hospital in Bournemouth and despite having volunteered to go overseas, such was her dedication and devotion to duty at the military hospital that the authorities refused to let her go.

On December 18, 1919 Miss Anderson was awarded the Royal Red Cross – the highest decoration that could be conferred for nursing – from King George V at Buckingham Palace.

In 1919 Margaret fulfilled her wish to go overseas. She left for Mesopotamia, where until the end of 1922, she continued in the nursing service with the British Expeditionary Force.

Upon her return to England she was appointed assistant matron at the Royal Infirmary, Truro, Cornwall but 1925 saw her return to her native Kilkeel, to become matron of the temporary Silent Valley Hospital.

By 1932 Miss Anderson had returned as matron to a hospital near Oxford, and remained there until the outbreak of war in 1939.

At the age of 58, she rejoined the Nursing Reserve and took part in several sorties across the English Channel during the evacuation of Dunkirk.

In later years she returned home to Kilkeel where she died at The Moor on October 19, 1956.

Chris Spurr, chairman of the Ulster History Circle, said: “Margaret Anderson was in her teens when she developed an interest in becoming a nurse. This led to a lifelong commitment in her profession, at home, in England, and overseas, and to the highest award for nursing service in wartime.”

The Ulster History Circle thanked the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards the plaque, and Mourne Presbyterian Church for their assistance.

The unveiling of Miss Anderson’s plaque takes place at 11.30am on Thursday.