Irish veteran of World War Two who became a GP in east Belfast during the Troubles dies at the age of 101
Qualifying at the Royal College of Surgeons during the ‘Emergency’ as it was called, in Dublin, she immediately joined the British Army and, after taking a course on tropical medicine in Hammersmith, in which she excelled, was sent to India. In India, as a young captain, she met Mountbatten, was sent to inoculate the Gandhi family and gained the ability to carry out medical examinations in five languages.
She saw the horrendous mass brutalities of the Indian civil war and this gave her a certain perspective on the Troubles. She met Dr Kenneth Bew, a QUB medical graduate, who had been in the RAF since 1944, serving first in Burma, then in India. The couple married in India in 1946 and returned to Belfast to set up practice at the bottom of Grampian Avenue, at the start of the National Health Service. Dr Bew worked in the role from 1949 to 1992, when she finally retired.
Her retirement was an emotional moment for her and her many patients who had come to know her and rely on her in moments of ill health. ‘Dr Mary’, as she was known, was immensely proud of her record of service. In the last years of her career, she worked in the health centre in Westminster Avenue alongside doctors Rosemary Small, Cameron Ramsey and Andrew McCutcheon.
In her retirement, she became a keen bridge player, enjoying successful evenings in particular with Derek Hanna. She also found that her bridge hobby gave her the context to travel widely – for example, to South Africa, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Her son Paul Bew is a historian and cross-bench peer in the House of Lords, and her grandson John is a Downing Street advisor. She is survived by Paul, John, and two great-grandchildren, Lara and Evelyn.