Obituaries

Dr Jean M. Weddell

Jean was born on 18th July 1928 the daughter of a doctor and a nurse so, not unsurprisingly, in 1947, after schooling at Benenden, she went to the Medical School at St Thomas’ Hospital, Lambeth, from where she qualified as a doctor in 1952. During this period she joined the band at St Luke’s, Chelsea, forming lifelong friendships with many members of the band there, including John Lott, Veronica Dupre and Gee and Monty Meyer. Qualification coincided with the end of the Korean War and she immediately went to Korea to set up a children’s hospital there.

After her return to the UK, she lived at Cowbridge, Glam. Early in the 1960s she was knocked down by a car after alighting from a bus and sustained serious leg injuries. “My fault,” she confessed. Amputation was advised, the alternative being some 15 months of gruelling operations with no guarantee of a successful outcome. She opted for the 15 months treatment and her legs were saved, though the injuries were to trouble her for the rest of her life and resulted in her having to spend her last few years in a wheelchair.

She gave birth to a son, Chris, Jean having “hidden” at John and Veronica’s throughout her pregnancy. He was adopted soon after birth and his adoptive family emigrated to Australia. Jean was overjoyed at being reunited with him only a few years ago.

She returned to London to take up a post at St Thomas, eventually becoming a senior lecturer specialising in TB. When professional duties allowed she joined in with as much ringing as she could though I think it probably true to say that she erred on the side of the social occasions rather than the actual ringing, for many years, for example, attending the annual “March 4th” gathering at Appleton. But she was a good ringer and striker, taking part in a few peals up to Surprise Major and Grandsire Caters for both the London County Association and the Medical Guild, serving the former as a CC Representative and Trustee and the latter as Ringing Master from 1974/9 and Vice President since 1979. With Gee, Veronica, Julie Spurgeon (later udall) and Eddie Adams who has also recently died, she was an essential member of the famous London County “tea squad.” She was also a calming influence upon and thoughtful contributor to the sometimes heated LCA committee meetings, which she generously hosted at her home in Lambeth following Harold’s retirement and the consequent non-availability of the legendary meeting room at 86/88 Edgware Road, Harold’s former office. For a short time in the 1970s she was tower captain at St Mary’s, Lambeth until the church was declared redundant and the bells removed to St John’s, Caterham.

Jean’s next door neighbour at Denny Crescent was Canon Eric James, a former Precentor of Southwark Cathedral, with whom she shared a daily morning telephone call, “to make sure we were both still alive.” He actually died around this time last year. Canon Roger Royle, a former succentor of Southwark Cathedral (and regular contributor to Radio 2’s “Wogan” and “Sunday Half Hour”) lived opposite. At the time of Jean’s retirement Roger had returned to the Cathedral to work as a voluntary chaplain and, between them, they encouraged her to take on voluntary duties at the Cathedral. She became a much valued steward and tour guide and took on similar roles at the rebuilt London Globe Theatre. During this period she entered into a Civil Partnership with Wendy Cook and they moved to the Isle of Wight, where Jean died on 10th March.

A thanksgiving service was held in the Chapel of St Thomas Hospital on 5th April attended by several of the alumni of the hospital and friends from Southwark and Lambeth. Despite the sadness of the occasion, it was a pleasure for me to meet up then with Jean’s son Chris and his wife and two grown up children.

I am most grateful to Julie Wilkinson (Udall/ Spurgeon), Helen Sutton (Maltman) and Geraldine Forster for so kindly helping me put together this short tribute to Jean.

M. J. U.

BB BellBoard
CC
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers