Obituary: Heti Davies, 83

Heti was generous and raised funds for many charities. Picture: Lewis Houghton
Heti was generous and raised funds for many charities. Picture: Lewis Houghton
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Heti Davies, pioneering psychiatrist and later writer, has died, aged 83.

Born in Llandeilo, Carmarthen, Wales on October 12, 1930, Heti Davies studied medicine at Cardiff University and graduated in 1955.

She was recruited to specialist training at the prestigious Fountain Hospital in Tooting, London, and was given free rein to develop a new service for families in distress.

She proceeded to open the first hostel in the UK, decertifying and resettling long-stay hospital patients “in the community”.

Her pioneering work as a family therapist underpinned her life’s work. “I saw parents as colleagues and siblings as friends,” she said.

By 1965, Heti was married with three children under five. She and her husband, John Evans, were seen as an ambitious couple on the brink of success.

His break came first, an enviable appointment to the Young People’s Unit in Edinburgh. With Heti’s career on hold, she immersed herself in family life, creating their first beautiful home in Queen’s Crescent.

It became a hub for colleagues from home and abroad, who enjoyed fine food and wine and Heti’s inimitable hosting style – extrovert, generous and tireless.

She settled finally in the St Joseph’s Hospital near Roslin where, with the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, she fostered and enriched a receptive clinical team.

The highlight of this time was a personal meeting with Pope John Paul II in June 1982.

Former trainees and students, some of them now consultants, will remember Heti in her role as speciality tutor introducing her signature monthly programme of visits featuring best practice in community care programmes.

She pioneered inclusive models of inter-disciplinary teamwork and radically shaped the strategic provision of care across the Lothians and Borders.

By 1980 she was the “must-have” speaker on the lecture and conference circuit.

She had mastered the art of being deliberately provocative, but never offensive.

She launched, guided and raised funds for a raft of charities, 
including Art Link, Ark Housing Association, Niemann Pick’s, Scotland Yard Adventure Playground and later Capability Scotland, Rachel House for Children’s Hospice Association, Sense and Partners in Advocacy.

Following her retirement from the NHS in 1995 she became president of the Welsh Society and over the past 17 years her St David’s Day parties became the hottest ticket in town.

At age 77, she admitted to a yearning to be in print and began a regular column in The Scotsman as LOLA – Little Old Lady Alone. The book which followed she described as “my reminiscence therapy”.

She died of a stroke in October. She had three children and four grandchildren.