Mary Margaret Skillen
Former head of the casualty department Duchess of Kent Hospital, Catterick Garrison (b 1936; q Durham 1966), died from metastatic brain carcinoma on 17 February 2002.
Mary was committed to a career in medicine. Financial restrictions prevented her going to medical school after her A levels so she trained as a pharmacist with Boots the Chemist. She qualified as a pharmacist in 1959 and immediately decided to save as much of her earnings as possible so that she could afford to enter the medical school in Newcastle from which she graduated in 1966.
While studying pharmacy at Sunderland she joined the Officer Training Corps and this was the start of her lifelong attachment to the Territorial Army. Initially attached to the Royal Signals in Middlesbrough, she transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps but retained her allegiance to the Royal Signals. After taking a number of short term hospital, general practice, and public health appointments, she was overjoyed in 1971 to be offered a post in the casualty department at the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Catterick Garrison and she served there until the hospital closed in 1999. While at Catterick she volunteered for two terms of duty in Northern Ireland and she was subsequently awarded the TD. On her retirement from the TA she was dined out by the Royal Signals, a singular honour for an RAMC officer.
Mary was not one to take a leisurely retirement. Although unable to continue as major in the Royal Signals TA, she took on the role of medical officer to the Cleveland Army Cadet Force and continued on a regular basis to carry out medical examinations at the Army’s Reserve Training Mobilisation Centre at Chilwell, Nottingham. Throughout her medical career she had kept up her membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and following the closure of the casualty department at DKH she often acted as locum for the RAMC pharmacist in Catterick. She was taken ill in October 2001.
The esteem within which Mary was held by her hospital and military colleagues was exemplified by the large numbers who were present at her funeral in Catterick on 21 February 2002. Many of the military mourners were in uniform and flags were carried. [Andrew Skillen]