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Prudence Barron

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 09 January 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h155
  1. Richard Barron

Prudence Barron (“Prue”) was an early lady surgeon and a well known Edinburgh resident. She learned her profession during and after the second world war, but she also recounted that she did have a small taste of pre-war formality. There used to be a weekly ward round by the consultant, during which student doctors would line up in clean white coats as the great man arrived in his chauffeur driven Rolls, clad in pinstripes a black jacket, wearing a grey top hat.

Prue was born in Poona, Maharashtra, in India in 1917 during the first world war. Her father, Colonel Frederick Halton, who in peacetime was a solicitor and later the coroner for Cumberland, had been stationed on the North West Frontier during the third Afghan rising. His wife, Ella, missed him greatly and went out to join him; subsequently Prue arrived.

As they were blockaded by a submarine barrage, it was not until two years later that Prue and her mother could return home to Carlisle, after a gruelling six week sea voyage. Prue’s four older siblings, expecting an Indian sister, were very disappointed when she finally arrived home.

Educated as a boarder at Cheltenham Ladies’ College from the age of 12, she became a prefect and then head of house.

Encouraged by her mother, Prue was accepted for one of the six places for women at the London School of Medicine in 1936 and was on the wards at the Royal Free Hospital by 1939, when the operating theatres were put underground to avoid the Blitz. The students, considered highly valuable, were farmed out for their safety and moved around the home counties, practising the different specialties. For Prue …

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