Elsie Inglis great niece backs Edinburgh Evening News statue campaign

Elsie Inglis, the Edinburgh doctor, who came up with the idea for the Scottish Women's Hospitals.
Elsie Inglis, the Edinburgh doctor, who came up with the idea for the Scottish Women's Hospitals.
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inspiring future generations is at the heart of the Evening News statue campaign to shine a light on the achievements of women who have influenced society.

And no influence has been greater to Kathy McGuinness, than that of her “formidable” Aunt Elsie.

Kathy grew up with the empowering legacy of her great aunt – medical pioneer Elsie Maud Inglis – woven through her childhood.

Although an infamously bold character, the stories told to Kathy about Elsie were also laced with compassion and kindness.

“It is a lesson I want my children to learn and embolden,” she told the Evening News. “It is important to be powerful but be kind as well.

“Aunt Elsie went far beyond what most would do, but she always did the right thing and that is a lovely message.”

Kathy was brought up in a traditional patriarchal family. But unique to her upbringing were the tales of her great aunt spun by her eccentric aunt Vi.

Violet Alice Harriet Inglis was Elsie’s niece who lived with Kathy as she grew up. During the First World War, Vi accompanied Elsie to Royaumont Abbey to set up a Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit on the western front.

“She used to tell us the most fantastic stories of exotic India, where they were born,” said Kathy.

“Aunt Vi was a sweet, warm lady and she loved to tell us stories of her and Elsie and the adventures of the past.”

Kathy admits when she was younger the stories seemed fanciful – her aunt Vi was an eccentric woman contradicted by the formidable character of Aunt Elsie.

“Vi was tasked with making tea and cakes at the Abbey,” said Kathy. “Lots of the stories were about the shows they put on for the soldiers and they were jolly stories.

“It wasn’t until I was a bit older I realised the gravity of the background to which they took place. They were 
performing shows to take their minds off the horrors they were dealing with.”

And a statue in Edinburgh would make the family very proud.

Kathy said. “She is such an unusual character but also one who personifies what unites us as a country and the values that we all share and hold dear.

“My mother always said it was through sheer determination that Elsie could move mountains and that message stays with me. Being told to go home and sit still by the War Office was like a red flag to a bull and I am the same. If someone tells me it is not possible, I find a way to do it.”

Mum-of-four Kathy started a national campaign called Child’s Eye Line which helps to protect children online.

“I now sit on a parliamentary group in Westminster,” Kathy said. “And every time I go in I think of Aunt Elsie – we can all move mountains through sheer determination.”

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk