ITV Programme on Black Victorian Heroine Mary Seacole


ITV tonight are broadcasting a documentary about Mary Seacole, one of the Victorian heroines you don’t hear about. The blurb in the Radio Times for the documentary runs

In the Shadow of Mary Seacole

The contribution of Mary Seacole, a Jamaican nurse of Scottish and African descent, to caring for wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War has been increasingly acknowledged over recent years. Actor David Harewood embarks on a highly personal journey of discovery as he follows the creation of a statue of the woman who has always been a heroine to him.

The programme’s on at 10.40 today, 18th October 2016.

Seacole was as big a heroine in her time as the nurse everyone’s heard of, Florence Nightingale. There were mass petitions and crowds gathered to see her honoured, and it’s a very sore point with many Black activists that she has been so comprehensively forgotten. They see it as being due to racism, while I think that part of it may also be due to Nightingale having been the better self-publicist.

Regardless of this issue, she is one of Black Britain’s greatest heroines, and indeed one of this country’s greatest irrespective of colour, and it’s only right that her story should also be brought back to public memory and respect.

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14 Responses to “ITV Programme on Black Victorian Heroine Mary Seacole”

  1. joanna Says:

    I have previously read more about her (curiosity). The soldiers in the war called her “Mammy” she would go onto the field in the thick of it, to provide hot soup and medical care. Florence Nightingale once had a meeting with Mary, but she spread rumours that Mary was only interested in money. She became a masseuse for the then “princess of wales”. She was saved from bankruptcy several times.

    I have no problem with the fact she made money during the war, because she gave freely to those who couldn’t afford what she had. She also gave many a peaceful death by praying for them when they were dying.
    I think she was a remarkable woman!!!

    • Beastrabban Says:

      That’s really interesting, Jo. I don’t know much about her, except what I’ve said in the above piece. But from what you’ve told me here, it’s clear that she was a truly incredible woman.

      • joanna Says:

        She was, and I think her memory should be recognised and honoured!

        Like him or loathe him, but Boris Johnson says he considers his education to have been blinkered, because he knew nothing about Mary until he saw a project his daughter was doing for school.

  2. jeffrey davies Says:

    hmm she did her job she did remarkably yet no statue goodgod when i looked at that face it remembered me of my nana hmmm but whot would this woman think of todays highly trained hcp working for the poverty pimp companies hmmm but we should be all proud for a statue to be raised to remarkable woman

    • joanna Says:

      I’m not sure what your question is Jeff, but Florence Nightingale was fully funded, as opposed to Mary, who managed to build a hotel from debris from other buildings. I think the stronger message is that the soldier’s love for her went way beyond race. They loved and respected her so much that they raised a lot of money for her to relieve her destitution. She died owning over £2,000, a bungalow which she had built and a house to rent, for her income.

      I think why she is remarkable is, when she went out on the battle field she helped everyone, even the enemy stopped shooting as soon as she appeared, and she wore bright coloured clothing so they recognised her.

  3. Danielle Dawson Says:

    1. Seacole wasn’t a nurse. She went to the Crimea to set up a hotel to serve soldiers, mainly officers who piad for good food and drink
    2. Her celebrity after the war was due largely to her close relationship with the officer class, not the ordinary soldier (nursed by Nightingale’s nurses) and to the fact that Nightingale was in seclusion, refusing publicity.
    3. Her trips to the battlefield have been much exaggerated. She was a kindly, benevolent woman but didn’t save soldiers’ lives as popular belief (based on the lack of firm evidence) woudl have us believe.

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks for that – that’s also very interesting!

      • joanna Says:

        Mary Seacole was also married to Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole. Edwin was the illegitimate son of Horatio Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton.
        They were married for 8 years then Edwin died in 1844.

    • joanna Says:

      Her occupations were: nurse, hotelier, boarding house keeper, author and world traveller. She treat the soldiers with herbs mostly, but she wasn’t trying to save lives, she did however give some soldiers as dignified death as possible. She was Catholic and said prayers for dying soldiers, she never claimed to be saving lives, but she did provide comfort especially as they couldn’t contact loved ones.

      • Beastrabban Says:

        Obviously, a very well connected lady. I think the soldiers would have appreciated her saying prayers for them as they were dying. I know this sounds slightly ridiculous in today’s much more secular and sceptical world. However, I can remember listening to a programme on Radio 4 about World War I, which mentioned that the mortally wounded squaddies appreciated the Roman Catholic Irish priests performing the last rites for them. The speaker suggested this was because it gave them some sense of control over their death. It wasn’t just something happening to them, it was something they could also control to a certain degree through Catholic ritual.

  4. 61chrissterry Says:

    Reblogged this on 61chrissterry.

  5. joanna Says:

    Thank you so much Beast! If it wasn’t for you mentioning the documentary tonight I wouldn’t have known about it. I think I have told you, I really enjoy history. I will watch a single documentary over and over again, because every time I see the same one I always seem to learn something new, then I start reading more, then things seem exciting and new!

    • Beastrabban Says:

      I’ve had that experience myself, Jo. And sometimes I’ll watch a documentary again, simply because the documentary itself remains interesting, or is simply very well done.

  6. joanna Says:

    I have just watched it and the statue is amazing!! They had a couple of detractors but I guess they have to have them.

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