British Gov’t to Fund Installation of Mary Seacole Statue

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The British Government has announced that it will be providing £240,000 towards the erection of a permanent statue of noted Jamaican-born Mary Seacole, nurse and heroine of the Crimean War, Vivienne Silva reports for the Jamaica Information Service.

The money will come from fines imposed on banks for fraudulently manipulating the foreign exchange markets.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made the announcement during his autumn statement and spending review recently.

The funds will cover installation costs and the creation of a memorial garden.

Jamaican High Commissioner to London, Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet Assamba, welcomed the news of the funding of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal.

She said she is very pleased that the statue honouring a worthy and inspirational Jamaican will soon be a reality.

The High Commission has strongly supported the Statue Appeal since it was launched in November 2003.

Mrs. Ndombet Assamba is one of the patrons of the appeal and members of staff of the High Commission have donated £500 to the project this year.

Chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, Lord Clive Soley, said that the new funding means that the installation of the statue can now be completed.

“Thanks to the supporters of the appeal, including trustees and ambassadors, the statue has been completed. This new money means that we can now complete the installation next spring.  Mary Seacole will finally get the recognition she deserves,” Lord Soley said.

Plans to unveil the statue earlier this year were delayed by an unexpected installation bill of £180,000 for the groundwork and hard landscaping.

The memorial garden will also commemorate health workers, both civilian and military, who have put themselves in harm’s way in conflict zones, or in combating disease such as the recent Ebola crisis.

Mary Seacole, who was born in Kingston in 1805, was well known as a ‘doctoress’ for her work in Jamaica and in Panama.

She set up the ‘British Hotel’ during the Crimean War from 1854 to 1856, where she fed and cared for wounded soldiers. She was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit in 1991. In 2004, she was voted the greatest black Briton.

4 thoughts on “British Gov’t to Fund Installation of Mary Seacole Statue

  1. I love the fact this is taking place, but it should have been paid for over a hundred years ago, and not out of savings, she was an amazing woman, we should all be proud of xx

  2. The Nightingale Society has written the Prime Minister protesting the site of the statue at St. Thomas’ Hospital, the site of Florence Nightingale’s nursing school, and suggesting that the statue be placed at Forum Magnum Square. Seacole is best celebrated as an adventurer and a businesswoman. She was not a nurse, never called herself one, and in the Crimea only ventured onto the battlefield three times, post battle, after selling wine and sandwiches to spectators, To verify, read Seacole’s own memoir, The Wonderful Adventures of Mary Seacole. There are many myths about her, easily debunked by perusing source material. See http://maryseacole.info/

  3. We have read Seacole’s memoir. Not only does she underline her healing skills, knowledge of medicinal herbs, her “Creole medical arts,” her “reputation as a skilful nurse and doctress,” and numerous instances in which doctors enlisted her and vouched for her “duties as a medical attendant” and special skills in healing tropical diseases (Chapters 1-4), but she also narrates, in detail, her attempts to offer her services to Nightingale’s corps of nurses, arriving at the suspicion of racism: “Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat dustier skin than theirs?” (Chapter 8). In her memoir, Seacole also mentions specific remedies she used to tend to her many patients (especially in Chapter 4, relating her work with cholera patients); she often refers to herself as a “doctress” (without restricting the term to administering “herbal remedies”) and consistently highlights her ample experience in nursing–as well as, occasionally, losing–patients. If we are to trust her memoir, she certainly did more than serve “wine and sandwiches.”

    The site you mention dismisses Seacole as not being a nurse based on the fact that she never worked in a hospital or contributed to a hospital. Based on this criteria, thousands of volunteer wartime nurses would be erased from history.

    In light of Seacole’s comments in her memoir, it is not surprising–and sadly ironic–that The Nightingale Society would want to continue keeping Mary Seacole at a safe distance from Florence Nightingale and her legacy. IR

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