Una Freeston obituary

Other lives: The child psychiatrist Una Freeston was a generous Quaker who believed in the power of love

My mother, Una Freeston, who has died aged 93, was a child psychiatrist dedicated to helping families stay together, resolve their difficulties, and move on to happier times. She improved countless families’ lives with her kind but determined approach to family therapy.

Born in Pinner, Middlesex, Una was the daughter of Mabel (nee Cassells), a doctor, and Brian Freeston, a foreign office civil servant. When the second world war broke out, Brian requested and was given a position in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in order to keep his three daughters away from wartime Britain.

The school thought most suitable for the girls was a boarding establishment in Tuari, Kenya, and so from the age of 13 Una and her sisters travelled for five days on trains, buses and a boat across Lake Victoria to get to school each term. This experience, together with her parents’ encouragement to be independent and free-spirited, was seminal in developing my mother’s character.

After her time in Africa, at age 16 Una attended pre-med at McGill University in Canada, then in 1946 went on to medical school at St George’s hospital in London, where she met my father, Kit Pedler, a doctor and opthalmologist who turned to writing. He co-created the television series Doomwatch in the late 1960s and the Cybermen for Doctor Who, and wrote books such as The Quest for Gaia.

They married in 1949 and settled in London. After working as a doctor at Mary Datchelor school in Camberwell Green, south London, when we were all young children, Una studied to become a psychiatrist at the nearby Maudsley hospital, going on to work at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington until she was offered a consultant psychiatrist position at St Augustine’s hospital near Canterbury in 1975, which entailed a move to the village of Lower Hardres in Kent.

The NHS required her to retire at the age of 65 but mum did not want to stop work – she enjoyed it too much – so she carried on working on medico-legal cases until the age of 75.

A Quaker, she was extraordinarily generous (“I want to die penniless,” she always said) and believed in the power of love. She was fearless and saw no reason why, for example, at the age of 80, in 2008, she should not do a tandem parachute jump and travel around the world on her own – including through Afghanistan.

She came back intact and full of adventure stories, including of having a photo taken on the back of a motorbike with a Kalashnikov, despite her pacifist beliefs.

Kit died in 1981 and their son, Mark, died in 2012. She is survived by her three other children, Carol, me and Justin, eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Lucy Pedler

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Pamela Pilkington obituary
Other lives: One of the NHS’s first female doctors who retrained as a psychiatrist

Guy Pilkington

05, Nov, 2018 @12:48 PM

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

Louise Labelle

25, Apr, 2021 @4:33 PM

Article image
David Hamilton obituary
Other lives: Cardiac surgeon with a worldwide reputation

James Wilkinson

13, Nov, 2017 @5:46 PM

Article image
Brian Neville obituary
Other lives: Key figure in the development of paediatric neurology and neurodisability in the UK

Helen Cross

22, Jan, 2017 @5:44 PM

Article image
Marek Miller obituary
Other lives: Consultant urological surgeon at Northampton general hospital who was an expert in vasectomy reversal

Richard O’Brien

20, Sep, 2021 @5:32 PM

Article image
Joan Bicknell obituary
Brilliant clinician who was appointed professor of psychiatry of learning disability at St George’s, University of London

Sheila Hollins

02, Jul, 2017 @3:04 PM

Article image
Clare Peploe obituary
Screenwriter and film-maker best known for Couples and Robbers, Besieged and La Luna

Ryan Gilbey

04, Jul, 2021 @3:50 PM

Article image
Lionel Hersov obituary
Other lives: One of the founding fathers of modern child psychiatry

Sebastian Kraemer

24, Apr, 2018 @4:09 PM

Article image
Naomi Richman obituary
Other lives: Child psychiatrist and leader in the field of psychiatric epidemiology

Rachel Richman

31, Jul, 2018 @4:00 PM

Article image
Jim Watson obituary
Other lives: Psychiatrist who established a sex and relationship clinic at Guy’s hospital, London, with his wife

Maurice Lipsedge

13, Sep, 2016 @1:12 PM