Obituary: Edith Cotterill
Monday 17 February 1997
Educated at Wolverhampton Girls' High School, Edith Humphries decided to become a nurse. "I did it to get away from home, and to escape the vicar who wanted me to become a missionary." At Margate Hospital when war broke out in 1939 she met her future husband, Harry Cotterill, a patient rescued from a minesweeper. He too - and other crew brought in - came from the Black Country and Edith was called on to act as an interpreter. "They're supposed to be British but they can't speak a word of English," a fellow nurse said.
After a wartime marriage and the birth of two daughters Edith Cotterill returned to nursing as a district nurse in Tipton, where her chief petty officer husband had become ambulance station officer. The death of her teenage daughter Judith stimulated Cotterill to take up writing. She was encouraged to write articles and poems by Harold Parsons, editor of the Black Countryman, the magazine of the Black Country Society. In 1973 the society published her slim volume Black Country Nurse at Large. It sold 9,000 copies locally and attracted the attention of a literary agent, who persuaded her to write an enlarged, Anglicised version, Nurse on Call. Published in 1986, it became a best-seller. Women's Own featured it. "Soddin besom yo'm bin writin abowt me," a patient chided Cotterill. "Burra I wull say this for yer, Nus, yo' gorra good noddle on ye."
Readers loved Nurse on Call because it took them into the other world of nursing which is beyond hospitals. The nurse who works on the district (the term now is in the community) meets the patient on the patient's own territory, whereas the patient in a hospital is on the nurse's own ground. It makes a difference to the relationship. And Cotterill's beat was not along country lanes but streets of tenements. She transmuted real stories of bed bugs, impacted faeces and banknotes sodden because the patient had them in bed for safe-keeping. They were told with humour tinged with sadness, and highly readable.
An animal lover - on leaving school she showed at Cruft's the first puppy to win the championship - Edith Cotterill donated the bulk of her royalties to animal charities. She never wrote the sequel to Nurse on Call which her publisher wanted but up to her death was writing pieces and poems for the Black Country Society - such as "A Plea from a District Nurse":
Please be kind to district nurses,
Don't belabour us with curses.
Even though we may look tough,
We are built of tender stuff.
Edith Humphries, district nurse and writer: born Tipton, Staffordshire 24 January 1916; married 1940 Harry Cotterill (died 1982; one daughter, and one daughter deceased); died Machynlleth, Powys 1 February 1997.
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
Boris Johnson claims porn-obsessed Islamic jihadists are 'literally w*****s'
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Ball pool for adults opens in London
Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...
£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...
£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...