Obituary: Margaret Broadley

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"THE WARD sister was the monarch of all she surveyed - it was the best job in the hospital and left alone I would never have done anything else," wrote Margaret Broad-ley, recalling her appointment at the Royal London Hospital, White-chapel, in 1929.

The major part of her nursing career was spent at the London, to which, in her nineties, she went to work on its archives, strap-hanging on the Central Line tube. If she had not left in her fifties to care for her mother she might have become its matron. She was the archetypal senior nurse of the days when matrons were matrons. "Tough but charming with it, and able to get the best out of people," says Lord Murray, former TUC general secretary, who, with his nurse wife Heather, were friends as fellow Methodists.

Margaret Broadley's father, an East Grinstead businessman who started a chain of gentlemen's outfitters, was willing to support her through medical school, a bold course for a woman in the 1920s. She, however, opted for nursing, although she subsequently rather regretted not studying medicine. She entered the London in 1923, because it was willing to take her at 20 whereas Guy's wanted her to wait until she was 21.

She had in fact to have over a year's sick leave as a probationer, contracting English and German measles, scarlet fever and diphtheria. But she went on to qualify as a midwife, took a sister tutor's diploma "because I thought I'd be a better ward sister with it", and in 1946 became assistant matron in charge of the student nurses, making sure that every ward and department where students worked was adequately staffed. She explained the job to the Queen when she visited the London: "It's a jigsaw puzzle that never stands still."

In two autobiographical books, Patients Come First (1980) and Patients Are People (1990), Broadley described with characteristic humour her career at the London. They were illustrated by her own sketches. She also published a book on Nursing and Community Service and a nurses' text-book on bandaging.

A devoted Methodist, Broadley was serving tea at Loughton Methodist Church a fortnight before she died. A time-capsule in the old church contained a Methodist Recorder announcing her birth and that of her still-born twin. She never married. "The enormous number of men killed in the First World War left a generation of spinsters for whom there was no hope of marriage," she told a seminar at the London.

Margaret Broadley, nurse and author: born East Grinstead, West Sussex 9 June 1909; died Epping, Essex 5 February 1999.