12 January 2017
Dame Sheila Quinn, who died on 8 December 2016, was born in Blackpool, England and educated at Layton Hill Holy Child Convent School, now St Mary’s Catholic Academy.
She trained as a nurse at Lancaster Royal Infirmary and so began a remarkable and distinguished career in the nursing profession. Throughout her career she was Chief Nursing Officer to the Southampton University Hospitals National Health Service Trust, Regional Nursing Officer for Wessex Regional Health Authority and Chief Nursing Advisor for the British Red Cross. She also became President of the Royal College of Nursing. From 1961 to 1970 she served on the administrative staff of the International Council of Nurses of which she was Executive Director from 1967-70, becoming a champion of nurses across the world. She was their representative to the International Labour Organization and she also acted as a consultant to the World Health Organization. She advised major charities developing new approaches to health in the global south and China. She also loved her visits to Africa where she went to work with and to train nurses. In the mid-80’s she helped to found The Brendoncare Foundation for Total Care of the Elderly.
It is no wonder that Sheila was honoured for her outstanding work. She was appointed first as a Commander of the British Empire and then elevated to the rank of Dame Commander by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1993 she was awarded the Christiane Reimann Prize (The Nobel of Nursing) by the International Council of Nurses for her outstanding contribution to the profession. In 2002 the Quinn Centre, named in her honour, was established to respond to the training and information needs of the domiciliary care sector.
It was not only in her professional life that Sheila’s life touched so many others for the better. As an energetic and devoted Catholic she contributed richly to the life of the Church in her parish and diocese in so many caring ways. These included not only raising funds to help Bosnian rape victims and displaced Croatian families, but also visiting the war zones and negotiating with the UNHCR, ministers and diplomats. She worked with the Bishops of Portsmouth Diocese in lasting pastoral care initiatives. At the local level she is lovingly remembered as a generous parishioner, providing lifts to church, at Mass most days, singing in the parish choir and a faithful Minster of the Eucharist. Apparently her Lancashire accent never quite left her in spite of her grandeur in later life, nor did the common sense of a great nurse.
May she rest in peace.