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Can you help identify ‘Nurse Brown from Jamaica’?

Mystery Windrush-generation nurse among the ‘unsung heroes’ featured in exhibition

Mystery Windrush-generation nurse among the ‘unsung heroes’ featured in Royal College of Physicians exhibition


‘Nurse Brown from Jamaica’, painted
around 1956. Picture: RCP Twitter

Who is this unsung heroine of nursing history? 

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) wants nurses’ help in identifying ‘Nurse Brown from Jamaica’, whose portrait forms part of its new exhibition.

Likely post-war migrant

The nurse, painted by Birmingham-based artist Irene Welburn around 1956, is likely to have come to the UK from the Caribbean after the second world war, but little else is known about her.

By 1965, more than 3,000 Jamaican nurses were working in hospitals in Britain, having been encouraged to come here by the post-war government.

The curator of the RCP exhibition This Vexed Question: 500 Years of Women in Medicine, Kristin Hussey, said: ‘I was immediately fascinated by the painting of Nurse Brown from the Wolverhampton Art Gallery – she has such a strong and confident gaze.

‘For me, including her in the exhibition was an opportunity to highlight the essential contribution to the NHS of nurses and other professionals from the British Commonwealth.

Highlighting female pioneers

‘It is sad and yet telling that we know so little about her. One of the key aims of our exhibition was to highlight pioneers but also unsung heroes from the history of women in medicine.

‘We hoped that by featuring her in the exhibition we might be able to learn more about her.’

According to a biography from the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists gallery, the artist Ms Welburn, who died in 2000, trained at Moseley Road School of Art and later attended Bernard Fleetwood-Walker’s classes at Birmingham School of Art in Margaret Street.

She was elected to the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1964 and exhibited at the Society of Women Artists and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

The free exhibition is open 9am–5pm Monday to Friday at the RCP headquarters in Regent’s Park, London, until 18 January.

If you have more information about Nurse Brown, email history@rcplondon.ac.uk or contact the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.


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