Obituary: Iris Irven

Iris Dundas Irven, district nurse: born Gillingham, Kent 28 January 1901; died Gillingham, Dorset 18 November 1997.

Iris Irven influenced the development of community nursing in three continents.

Fifty years ago at the start of the National Health Service in 1948, she co-authored District Nursing, the standard textbook on what is now called community nursing - caring for patients in their own homes - something on which the health service, faced with ever-rising hospital costs, was to place more and more emphasis. Significantly it was described as a handbook not only for district nurses but for "all concerned in the administration of district nursing services".

Iris Irven was named after a warship - HMS Iris - by her naval captain father. On leaving school she worked as a clerk before training as a nurse at University College Hospital from 1926 to 1930, as a midwife in 1932 and as a health visitor, 1934-35. Not for her a hospital career. She wanted to be with patients and their families in their homes as nurse, midwife and health visitor educator.

Her first management post was as assistant superintendent of district nursing in Worcester. Her first superintendent's post came in 1939 at Hastings. Organising home care in Hell Fire Corner during the Second World War, with for a period the imminent threat of invasion and always bombardment from across the English Channel, was a taxing management exercise.

After the war Irven went in 1948 to Birmingham as senior superintendent of home nursing. She wrote her textbook with Eleanor Merry, who was superintendent at the Queen's Nursing Institute.

Britain was now pioneering home nursing in countries under British influence. In 1953 Irven, then in charge of health visiting in north-west England, was seconded to Malaya as team supervisor under Lady Edwina Mountbatten's St John's Ambulance initiative. It was the time of the Communist rebellion. The Communist leadership, realising her usefulness to the village people and the bad publicity which would follow if they killed her, sent a message telling her to mark her vehicle with two large red crosses. They knew how fearless she was in her health and welfare work in the jungle.

Returning to the UK in 1955 as senior assistant superintendent at Rochdale, Irven joined the headquarters staff of the Queen's Institute of District Nursing. She was seconded once more - to Kenya - to pioneer a nursing and health care programme based on the Native Civil Hospital at Embu. She stayed until 1958, when she returned to be matron of the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association hospital at Wimbledon. She was due to retire in 1959 but stayed on until 1961, then moving to Hanwood near Shrewsbury, where two operations for cancer and a broken arm failed to stop her work for the Church, which blindness eventually halted.

A keen cyclist, at the age of 82 Iris Irven clocked up 10,000 miles cycling through the Shropshire lanes and was photographed in the local paper.

She never married. Her father refused her permission to marry her teenage sweetheart. She never loved anyone else and never forgot him. To the end of her life his name could move her to tears.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game