June Clark pays tribute to Dora Frost, one of the most commited activists the RCN ever had.
My fondest memory of Dora is the debate about district nurses’ cars which was on the agenda of four successive RRB meetings in the late 70s and early 80s. The government was making it a requirement that district nurses should provide their own cars, and that loans to buy a car should require that the car was totally made in Britain. Dora had the RRB members rolling in the aisles with her comparisons with the postal services’ little red vans and her images of delivering commodes by Rolls Royce (which was the only car totally made in Britain).
I was in the Chair, and there was absolutely no way I could get her to stop when she exceeded the time allowed to speakers – the audience would have lynched me!
Dora was one of the most committed activists the RCN ever had, a charismatic leader, the first RCN steward, a Council member for ten years, and later Deputy President of the RCN. She was never afraid to speak out for nurses and nursing, even when it cost her dear: when as a ward sister she spoke out at RRB about the effect on care of the (then) habit of putting in extra beds when the ward was full, she returned home to find that her hoped-for promotion had been vetoed by angry consultants and she had to resign.
Dora’s life-long love affair with the RCN began in the mid 1950s, soon after she qualified as a nurse at Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, but really took root in the Bath Branch where she worked tirelessly for RCN members for most of her professional nursing life.
When stewards were introduced into the RCN via a pilot scheme in the South West, Dora was the first to qualify. It was Dora who proposed to Council that the term “RCN Steward” should be used. Working closely with Monica Baly, RCN Area Officer, she became deeply involved in the pay campaigns of the 1960s (Raise the Roof) and 1970s (Pay not Peanuts, Bridge that Gap), in the recognition of the RCN as a certificated trade union, and the debates about industrial action and affiliation to the TUC. She took a leading role in the mass lobbies of Members of Parliament, and in the many campaign meetings and marches.
In her District Nursing Officer asked her to take on a role, under the new nursing management arrangements, as Senior Nurse (Personnel). This was a recognition that Dora was by now one of the most experienced and expert nurses around in dealing with labour relations issues, but always from a professional perspective. She developed personnel policies for the district, achieving the respect of both management and staff.
When this role was wiped out by the new general management arrangements following the Griffiths Report, Dora decided to take early retirement in order to fulfil the second (but equal) passion of her life – to enter the Christian ministry. Dora had always been a committed Christian, working for many years through, and eventually becoming President of the Nurses’ Christian Fellowship. After three years study at theological college, she was ordained in July 1989. She took up post as Minister to the United Free Church at Wick, a village not far from her home in Bath, a position which she held for twenty years until she retired aged 79.
But this did not mean giving up her relationship with the RCN – she was invited by Trevor Clay (then RCN General Secretary) to become the RCN chaplain; she shared in the church services at RCN Congress, and organised the memorial services for General Secretaries Catherine Hall and Trevor Clay and former RCN President Maude Storey.
When I was preparing these notes, I put out a message to RCN members asking if anyone remembered Dora Frost. I got an immediate reply from one RCN member: “How could anyone who went to Congress during the 1970s or 1980s NOT remember Dora?” We all have our special memories. “I remember Prunella and Lucy, the little dachshunds that went everywhere with her” said one. “I remember the College’s 60th birthday Diamond Jubilee celebrations when she was Deputy President” said another. “I remember marching to Trafalgar Square singing ‘Put Mrs Thatcher on a bus’”. “I remember that lovely soft west country accent” said another.
Dora’s funeral takes place on Friday 1 November at Wick Tabernacle United Reform Church, Wick