Madeleine Eggleston obituary

Other lives: Doctor with an interest in women’s health who set up a family planning clinic in Taunton

My mother, Madeleine Eggleston, who has died aged 93, was a doctor at various hospitals around the UK and had a special interest in the health of women, especially in relation to family planning.

She was born in Brockley, south London, to Alice (nee Baillieu), a clerical worker, and her husband, Thomas Russell, a professional viola player. When she was a baby the family moved to Cardiff, and later they settled in Hampstead, north London, from where Madeleine was evacuated to Surrey at the outbreak of the second world war.

After a painful leavetaking from her parents, she was joined there by her mother in 1941. That year her parents separated; they divorced in 1945. Despite all the disruption, Madeleine excelled at Guildford county school for girls, and at 18 she became a lab technician at the Pirbright research institute in Surrey, before studying medicine at the University of St Andrews.

When her training had finished, in 1950 she became a junior doctor at King’s Cross fever hospital in Dundee, where she witnessed one of the last polio epidemics. In 1951, working in obstetrics and gynaecology at Dundee Royal Infirmary, she was deeply moved by seeing the aftermath of illegal abortions, something that emphasised to her the importance of contraception, and which influenced her later work.

In 1952-53 she took posts in the casualty and orthopaedics departments of Beckenham cottage hospital in Kent, where she saw respiratory deaths resulting from the last real London smog. Then she spent two years as a junior doctor at two hospitals in Taunton, Somerset – Musgrove Park and East Reach. It was while in Taunton that she met Ed Eggleston, a biochemist, and they were wed in 1954.

Once married, Madeleine took time off to have three daughters, Judith, Elizabeth and me. But when her mother moved in to live with the family she was able return to work, setting up a Family Planning Association clinic in Taunton in 1960 that was taken over by the NHS in 1974. She combined that work with becoming a part-time clinical assistant at the town’s Trinity geriatric hospital.

A modest woman, she had a great understanding of the emotional needs of her patients and was admired by colleagues not only as a clinician but as someone who was willing to pass on her awareness and understanding. She retired in 1987 from Trinity and finally gave up her work with the clinic in 1995.

Her retirement was a happy one: she made bread, as she had done for most of her life, was a fabulous cook, and enjoyed crocheting and knitting for family members, as well as making tapestries. She loved doing the Guardian crosswords with Ed, and went to coffee mornings with a multicultural group of women with whom she spoke French, Italian and Spanish. She also read widely.

Ed died in 2005. She is survived by her three daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Louise Labelle

The GuardianTramp

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