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Deal Midwife Jill Read, who brought babies into the world in Ramsgate, Tunbridge Wells and New Zealand and Australia, dies aged 83

By Mercury reporter

Former nursing colleagues are saddened to learn that Jill Read, a long serving Sister Midwife passed away on Christmas morning at the age of 83.

Jill, born in Leas Road, Deal brought generations of children into the world, many times delivering babies from the same families.

By doing this she cemented life long friendships with her charges as they grew into adulthood, becoming midwifery patients themselves.

Midwife Jill Read (6457097)
Midwife Jill Read (6457097)

At an early age Jill told her mother that she wanted to be a nurse and bring babies into the world – an ambition that she certainly achieved.

Jill amused the family by saying that she had seen God go up into heaven – but it was a barrage balloon rising from Deal’s football ground at the back of the house.

Evacuation to Wiltshire with mother and brother soon followed when women and children were ordered out of Deal to avoid the risks from heavy wartime shelling and bombing that followed.

In 1946 the family were reunited. They lived temporarily at Ravenscourt Road in severely damaged Deal. Jill’s father, Jim, returned from RAF duty in Egypt to resume his position with the town’s Lloyds Bank. Mother, Molly, subsequently became Deal’s Registrar of Births and Deaths.

A year later, the Reads moved to Walmer, almost opposite Lawn Road, at the top of Drum Hill (Dover Road) which remained the family home for almost 50 years.

Jill soon passed the scholarship to Dover, while brother Andrew helped Bill Minter, landlord of the neighbouring ancient Drum Inn (a subsequent victim of road widening), to look after his pigs and turkeys. Maternal grandfather Fred Sales drove the Drum’s taxis.

The family enjoyed cricket matches at Marke Wood, Sunday mornings watching Royal Marine parades and cycling to watch Deal Town and Betteshanger football, and sometimes to picnics at Sandwich Bay.

After training with friends from Deal, including Joan Grant at Kent & Canterbury Hospital, (where Jill won the top prize and was called on to make the principal speech at the graduation ceremony), her next role was cycling round villages in the Ramsgate area with bag at the ready for deliveries in Call the Midwife mode.

Once qualified as a midwife Jill worked in Pembury Hospital, near Tunbridge Wells.

She wanted to travel, sailing with a colleague Kate Bones via the Panama Canal and Tahiti to work as midwives in the Wellington area and elsewhere in New Zealand, before safely shepherding in more babies in Australia.

Midwife Jill Read (6457099)
Midwife Jill Read (6457099)

Returning to England in 1966, they initially worked for an old boss in Coventry where, on a royal visit, Jill showed the Queen round her ward.

But, before long, they transferred to Brighton’s new midwifery department. Jill was installed as sister of the Premature Baby Unit, while Kate was appointed head of the delivery suite.

Although unfailingly modest, Jill was particularly proud that the many tiny babies under her wing all survived and thrived – and she enjoyed training new nurses, gaining great pleasure from seeing them develop into outstanding professionals.

Her father died in Deal Hospital in 1977. Her mother continued to live in the Walmer bungalow until eventually moving to be near Jill.

However, Deal – where Jim and Molly had started married life in a flat in College Road after they wed in 1933 – remained very much a family favourite with regular family holiday reunions.

Jill, though, had been dealt a cruel hand. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and while she accepted her lot without complaint, she was eventually forced to take early retirement from her much-relished job.

Despite a number of serious operations and follow ups by friendly specialists over a prolonged period, Jill was determined to continue pursuing her interests as fully as possible and greatly enjoyed holidays, gardening, and activities with the National Trust, the WI and the church, being very knowledgeable about her many interests.

Blessed with an abundance of kindly common sense, Jill relished being with children of the family – and helping local children with their reading and arithmetic at school.

Sadly, Kate Bones died in December 2017, but Jill soldiered on despite increasing frailty, finally necessitating a move into a nursing home in Seaford, East Sussex.

Jill’s Christmas mail always contained many appreciative messages, both from people with whom she had worked at home and abroad, and from former patients.

Her Crohn’s consultant told the family: “Jill was always a very lovely patient to look after and I hope she rests in peace.”

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