Real Lives: Barbara Snowdon will be sadly missed

Barbara Snowdon. Picture: contributed
Barbara Snowdon. Picture: contributed
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A MUCH-loved nurse who made Edinburgh her home after coming to train for her ophthalmic nursing diploma has died aged 64.

Barbara Snowdon was a well-respected member of staff at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion.

Born in Newcastle, she was educated at a Catholic convent school, leaving at 17 to train as a nurse.

She came to the Capital with a glowing reference from James Howat, the senior ophthalmic surgeon at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Barbara had every intention of returning home, but Dr Barry Cullen, who had been senior registrar in Newcastle, saw her talents and wasted no time making sure she could be enticed to stay north of the Border.

Those who knew her said that nursing was her true vocation, combining her natural competence with natural compassion.

Barbara thought of herself as being of the old school and reflected sadly that nursing had changed over the years and that the principles that formed part of her training, and she held dear, were no longer as valued.

She was the first ward sister not to have been trained at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. As a junior nurse, she always thought of the patients’ needs first and as a sister, she had the authority do something about it. Colleagues say she was adept at disguising the manoeuvres that allowed her to keep children and adults in hospital over Christmas if it was where they’d be happiest.

Her intelligence inevitably propelled her through the ranks to the position of nurse specialist and then hospital manager of the Eye Pavilion, where she was in effect the matron.

She was so highly regarded that although she was not eligible to wear the prized Pelican Badge, the mark of an Edinburgh trainee, she was made an Associate Pelican.

She was respected enormously and prided herself on knowing what was going on in all departments. She was always happy to help colleagues in professional and personal matters.

She regarded herself as a Scot by residence and when her parents aged, she brought them up from Newcastle to stay with her in Ormiston, nursing them to the end.

Barbara needed her renowned good sense of humour to help her through her last years when ill health took its toll and she became increasingly disabled and in pain.

The complications of diabetes restricted her independence, prevented her from driving and threatened the loss of her feet.

But kind neighbours looked after her, her garden and her beloved dog. In addition, she was sustained by the faith she had acquired from her convent school and the visits of all those friends she had made over the years.

Friends described Barbara as “bright, bubbling, compassionate, funny and tolerant”.