Obituary: Jean Blades MBE, 93

Jean Blades was a well-respected occupational therapist. Picture: comp
Jean Blades was a well-respected occupational therapist. Picture: comp
Have your say

Jean Blades MBE, a well-known occupational therapist, has died, aged 93.

Born in Edinburgh on March 24, 1921, Jean was the youngest of eight. Her father was chairman of printing and stationery firm Waterstons. He was also a member of the board of governors of the Astley Ainslie Hospital (AAH) and had been much impressed by Amy de Brisay, a Canadian who had been sent to set up occupational therapy in the convalescent hospital in 1932.

Jean was the last of the initial nine students who started their training at the newly established occupational therapy school at the AAH just before the Second World War.

After completing her first year, the course was suspended with the outbreak of war, and Jean spent the next two years as an auxiliary nurse at the AAH. However, by 1941, the need for occupational therapy services was recognised.

Jean went to Stracathro Hospital, Angus, where she gained invaluable experience of the rehabilitation of wounded servicemen, many of whom had been rescued from the North Sea. She completed her final examinations in 1944.

Jean loved children and was offered a newly created post at Princess Margaret Rose Hospital for Crippled Children.

With the ending of the war in 1946, it was time to re-establish the Scottish Association of Occupational Therapists and Jean was appointed as secretary-treasurer, the beginning of a long association with the professional organisation.

The perfect job for her became available with the Edinburgh Cripple Aid Society (ECAS). Jean felt confident in taking on this work as the National Assistance Act of 1948 had enabled the local authority to appoint ECAS as its agents to care for people with physical disabilities.

Jean developed a rehabilitation centre for people with physical disabilities with regular input from the NHS, education department and department of employment.

It gave disabled people the chance to develop a work ethic and learn skills to help them to employment.

In 1976, Jean was awarded the MBE for her services to disabled people and, in 1977, an honorary fellowship of the College of Occupational Therapists. She also got married to Daniel Blades, minister of Fala Church.

When Jean took early retirement in 1985, the respected Hester Monteath said: “She is fun, laughter, energy, enthusiasm, compassion and very warm affection.”

Jean enjoyed singing with both the Edinburgh Festival Choir and the Edinburgh Choral Society of which she was made an honorary life member. She was a driving force in the Sunday school in Fala and played the organ at the church for more than 40 years, retiring at 87.

She co-founded Fala, Soutra and District History and Heritage Society and campaigned for the importance of Soutra Aisle to be recognised and its surroundings to be protected from the wind turbines.