Obituary: Gwen Davies

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The Independent Online
Gwendolen Davies, physiotherapist, born Denbigh Glyndwr 8 May 1904, died Liverpool 28 July 1992.

IN THE WORLD of physiotherapy Gwen Davies was an exceptionally gifted practitioner and achieved so much as a teacher who inspired young people. Many of these physiotherapists who owed their success to her gifts of communication kept in touch with her after her retirement.

Educated at the Howells School in Denbigh, north Wales, Gwen Davies came to Liverpool to be trained and stayed all her life in the city (except for a short period at King's College, London). In Liverpool she met another exceptional practitioner of the art of physiotherapy, Miss E. Bartlett. She and Bartlett not only became colleagues, but also lifelong friends, and their professional co- operation made the Liverpool School of Physiotherapy an institution of high repute. Students from all over Britain came for training and Davies was also involved for a period with the School of Occupational Physiotherapy in Huyton. Finally she became the principal of the United Liverpool Hospital's School of Physiotherapy.

Hundreds of students idolised her and some of them were with her in the last few weeks of her illness, for to them Gwen Davies had given them standards that had stood them well in the exacting discipline of physiotherapy. While she accepted the need for technology, to her there was no substitute for the healing touch of consecrated hands. Her final years were at the I & Marsh College (now part of the new John Moores University) where she was in charge of the Anatomy Department.

Gwen Davies had a great interest in literature. She was very proud that she was the niece of Thomas Gwynn Jones, the poet of the great-souled hero Arthur and the enchanted land of the imagination, in a number of ways the greatest figure of the literature of Wales in the 20th century. His photograph was always near her table. She immersed herself also in the work of RS Thomas, whose Prytherch poems were a constant source of delight. So were the prose poems and parables of the Lebanese poet and philosopher Kahlil Gilbran. Davies took delight in introducing us to poets who had a great reservoir of spiritual life.

An internationalist, she loved travel and especially Canada and Vancouver. But she also believed that one had to be committed to the local community. Generous in every way, she supported organisations which looked after the Third World and such appeals were always well supported. She bridged the gap between individuals of different faiths and she in her own life was an excellent practitioner for the Council of Christians and Jews.

Though in her earlier life she did private work as a physiotherapist, she also voluntarily and without a fee helped the very poor from Liverpool 8, who could not afford physiotherapy in the days before the National Health Service.

As she grew older she became more Welsh in her outlook and interests and her religious upbringing within the Presbyterian Church of Wales was also strengthened through prayer and the sacrament of the Lord's supper.

(Photograph omitted)