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Obituary: Elizabeth Margaret Rose

Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
Born: 4 April 1916 in Edinburgh
Died: 1 April 2011 in Bridge of Allan

Dr Elizabeth Rose was a highly respected consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and a key player in setting the Brook Advisory Centre in Scotland. She worked principally in the Forth Valley area.

She was the younger daughter of David and Elizabeth Rose. Her father and maternal grandfather were both well known Edinburgh builders. Her grandfather, David Bell, was, in the 1860s, a joiner and chairman of the Edinburgh Co-operative Building Company Ltd which was responsible for ‘The Colonies’ in Stockbridge and indeed Bell Place is named after him.

She was educated at Broughton Elementary School and George Watson’s Ladies College. There she excelled academically and left after the fifth year to study medicine at Edinburgh University. A visitor to her brownie pack had been a missionary to China and Elizabeth had known even then that she did not want to be a missionary; to get to China she would have to become a doctor.

At university she gained a rowing blue and over sixty years later she proudly wore her blue blazer on an ‘honorary’ family outing along the Union Canal where she must have trained.

After graduating in 1938 she took a series of house jobs at the Victoria Hospital in Keighley in Yorkshire where, in 1939, she was in charge of the burns and septic ward. Like the other few women medical graduates of her time, finding a hospital job in Scotland, particularly Edinburgh, was tough. She began specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at the old Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. She went into this specialism partly because, before antibiotics were commonplace, she felt there were no effective treatments for most illnesses.

In 1948 she moved back to Scotland. The situation in Edinburgh and Glasgow for women doctors had not got much easier since the end of the war and she obtained her career post at a young age in the 1950s at the Stirling Royal Infirmary and Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital. The castle building is now part of the University of Stirling. There were also regular clinics at Alloa and Cornton Vale Women’s Prison. She was to remain based in Forth Valley until her retirement and during her years as a Consultant Obstetrician there she safely guided many women through fertility problems, difficult pregnancies and births. Her knowledge and expertise meant that she filled her patients with confidence and she cared deeply about the women under her care. She often described them as ‘her mothers’ and many are depicted in one of her friend Lys Hansen’s paintings that shows a group of women leaving the Coats Paton factory after a shift. After her retirement from Stirling Royal, Elizabeth carried on with locums around the country including Edinburgh and the east end of London and continued her own private practice in Stirling and Edinburgh.

Colleagues have spoken of Elizabeth as a highly skilled, passionate and sometimes formidable practitioner, who shared her knowledge, contributed to the British Medical Journal and gave her junior staff encouragement. She became a member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in 1947 and became a Fellow through recognition by respected members in 1966.

Her influence reached far beyond the Stirling area. She was dedicated to improving women’s health. She was instrumental in setting up the Brook Advisory Centre in Scotland (now Caledonia Youth) in the 1960s at a time when giving contraceptive advice to unmarried women was still controversial. She served on the committee for the Edinburgh Brook Advisory Centre for many years and was honorary gynaecologist until 1993. Elizabeth was also eighteenth, and first woman, president of the Scottish Society of the History of Medicine from 1993 to 1995. Also in the 1990s she was a member of the Business committee of the General Council of the University of Edinburgh when there were very few women in such positions. She was a lifelong supporter of Edinburgh University.

She also played her part in the political life of Scotland. She stood as a local councillor on one occasion. She was an active member of CND and often protested at Faslane and in George Square in Glasgow when much younger people stayed at home.

Elizabeth travelled widely throughout the World, especially in connection with professional conference commitments and made lifelong friends all over the world as a result. The wartime marriage of her friend since schooldays, Jessie Scott, to a Free Czech airman Vincent Kocman, and their subsequent emigration to Brno, gave her an opportunity to travel to Czechoslovakia, long before 1989 when the Iron Curtain was lifted and travel to Eastern Europe started to become easier. She did finally, long after her brownie days, get to China through the auspices of the Scotland China Association.

She was very keen on the creative arts and took great interest in the development of the McRobert Centre at the University of Stirling. She loved music. She loved theatre. She supported the Edinburgh Theatre workshop and took part in community productions. She loved films. She loved fashion and stylish open-top cars. She was a member of ‘Le Cercle Français’ in Bridge of Allan. She loved gardens and gardening. She loved modern art. She held an annual party at the time of the Edinburgh Festival. She was a patron of the arts in Scotland.

Elizabeth, in her own inimitable way, loved her sister, who predeceased her, her niece, three nephews and nine great nieces and nephews, her honorary families and young people in general.