Obituary: Prudence Barron, doctor, 97

An Edinburgh doctor who paved the way for other women to enter the profession has died at the age of 97.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 3rd December 2014, 11:45 am
Prudence Barron was sharp and astute to the very end. Picture: contributed
Prudence Barron was sharp and astute to the very end. Picture: contributed

Prudence Barron was born on September 16, 1917, in Poona Maharashtra, India, where her father Colonel Frederick Halton was stationed during the third Afghan rising.

At the age of two, she returned to Carlisle with her mother to join her four older siblings, and was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College from the age of 12.

She went on to study medicine at the London School of Medicine in 1936 and was on the wards at the Royal Free Hospital three years later.

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Prudence qualified in 1942 and moved to Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle to take the post, first of house physician, and then later house surgeon, where she excelled.

After 18 months she secured a position at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh as a clinical assistant to the renowned Gertrude Herzfeld – the first practising woman surgeon in Scotland.

Prudence loved the job, and was present during the initial trials of Penicillin as it was first being released for civilian use. The results of the drug were miraculous.

After intensive study she became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in July 1945, just a few days after VE Day.

Following a spell at Birmingham Children’s Hospital – where she assisted in the first paediatric open heart operation – Prudence was appointed Senior Surgical Registrar at Bruntsfield Hospital in October 1947.

And it was in a dissection room at Edinburgh University that she first met her husband Arthur FM Barron.

They were married in Carlisle Cathedral in 1950 and a year later the first of three children arrived, but Arthur was to tragically die of a stroke in 1971.

In 1975 – on what would have been her silver wedding anniversary – Prudence was awarded the MBE for services to geriatrics.

Outside of the workplace, she enjoyed a wide variety of activites, including providing tireless support to Christ Church Trinity and then St James Goldenacre, and maintaining a keen interest in literature, ornithology, botany and gardening.

She was also chair of the local Medical Women’s Federation and in her retirement chair of the Cruse bereavement counselling service.

A fighter to the end, she underwent open-heart valve replacement surgery at the age of 92, followed by an advanced hip operation more recently after suffering a fall. Predictabily, she proved an alert and knowledgable patient - quizzing junior doctors on their ambitions for the future, as well as evaluating her own medication with hospital staff.

She is survived by her three children – Caroline, Bessie and Richard – five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, the last born on the day of her funeral.