Michael Wavell: Nurse and businessman who enriched the life of his native Jersey

Laurence Dopson
Wednesday 22 June 2011 00:00

There was no money for Michael Wavell to study to be a doctor, as he wanted, so he qualified as a nurse. As a nurse he played a major role in his native Jersey, as a businessman, politician, charity fundraiser, hotel owner, and promoter and lover of music.

From a baby Wavell was brought up happily by two sisters who fostered Jersey children, Lil Mignot and Maud Cooper. After schooling in St Helier boys' school, he went to the Guest hospital, Dudley, where he quickly overcame the cultural shock of mainland life and the Black Country accent.

In 1965 he and two others were the first male students at the preliminary training school. He bought an old car which female student nurses found useful as a taxi. But when he returned to Jersey he discovered it was not ready for a male State Registered general nurse. He was told that the only way he could get a nursing post on theisland was to qualify as a mental nurse. This he did at Longrove Hospital,in Epsom, Surrey, where he also met his future wife, Rosemary. And with his new qualification he was accepted as a nurse at St Saviour's psychiatrichospital, Jersey.

Realising that there was a demand for private nursing, he set up the Guardian Nursing Agency. There followed the Guardian Nursing Home, the Guardian Medical and Surgical Supply Centre and a sophisticated private medical centre.

His entrepreneurial ventures included a hotel. When a coastal public footpath near this suffered erosion he repaired it – and when he learned that development threatened it further along the coast, he bought the land to preserve it.

A worshipping Methodist, Wavell purchased the Aquila Road chapel (dating from 1839) which had become redundant and presented it as a venue for a youth club and social centre. A lover of music, he provided the Chateau Vermont, St Saviour, as the headquarters for the Jersey Academy of Music. He was also responsible for bringing distinguished soloists to the island.

Wavell was quick to recognise the significance of the outbreak of Aids on the island. A key figure in Jersey's substance-misuse strategy, in 2000 he was awarded the National Rolleston Award, commemorating Sir Humphrey Rolleston, the president of the Royal College of Physicians who chaired the UK committee of morphine and heroin addiction in 1926. Wavell was also nursing officer for the Jersey St John's Ambulance Brigade.

For centuries each parish in Jersey has had its honorary police force. Wavell entered public service asan honorary policeman and servedfor nine years, six of them as a centenier. And for 18 years he sat as amember of the States of Jersey, the island's parliament.

He was a controversial and constructive politician, though not an eloquent one. He backed the setting up and maintenance of an Isle of Jersey Territorial Field Unit as a contribution the island could usefully make to the UK's defence forces. As chairman of the Defence Committee, Wavell sorted out the chaos which people in Jersey used to find themselves in with the annual renewal of their vehicle registration. Replacing a tax disc with an insurance disc eliminated the queues.

On leaving front-line politics, Wavell concentrated on charitable work.He and his wife had adopted a daughter, Evangeline, in Sri Lanka, and when the tsunami struck in 2004 he help set up and chaired the charity Jersey Side by Side, to help rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Michael Adam Wavell, nurse, politician and charity fundraiser: born St Helier, Jersey 7 February 1947; married 1987 Rosemary Ellis (one daughter); died St Lawrence, Jersey 16 April 2011.

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