Mary Smith obituary

Other lives: Nurse who spent her working life in hospitals in Derbyshire until she was 70

My mother-in-law, Mary Smith, who has died aged 90, emigrated to England from Ireland in her teens, spent her working life in nursing, and devoted her retirement to travelling the world.

Mary was born in Glenamaddy, County Galway, to Bridget (nee Rushe) and Patrick Diskin, who were farmers. Her adventurous spirit became evident when she left Ireland in 1942 at the age of 17, reaching England via Northern Ireland because of second world war travelling restrictions. Although her plan was to join the Women’s Royal Naval Service, she only made it as far as Derbyshire, where she met and married Bob Smith. They both found work as nurses at Pastures hospital in Mickleover, where they made many lifelong friends among the young nurses recruited from Ireland, Scotland, the north of England and, later, the West Indies.

Bob and Mary brought up three boys, Kevin, Ian and Neil, and lived on the hospital estate, where they enjoyed the close community of the hospital staff and their families. In particular they made the most of cricket and football facilities, a busy social club, and the golf club, of which Mary was ladies’ captain.

After Bob died in 1981, Mary continued to work at Pastures hospital and local nursing homes until she was 70. In her retirement she became an adventurous traveller, flitting across five continents, walking along a section of the Great Wall of China, trekking in the rainforests of South America, watching the Bolshoi ballet in Russia, and taking the bullet train in Japan.

She was independent until the end and had a positive outlook on life, with an enthusiasm for new experiences. She also had a genuine interest in other people, enjoyed political conversations about the news she read in the Observer, and was chief washer-up at every family meal.

Mary is survived by three sons, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Jacqui Shirley

The GuardianTramp

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