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Mary Seacole statue only one year away

LASTING TRIBUTE: Mary Seacole

A LONG-AWAITED statue for pioneering Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole will be erected next year.

Supporters today gathered for a site dedication at The Gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital where the monument will make its permanent home.

Once Seacole, of Scottish and Creole descent, is revered for her services during the Crimean War (1853-1856).

The self-taught nurse - voted Britain's greatest Black Briton - set up the ‘British Hotel’ where she fed and cared for wounded soldiers. It is estimated she helped thousands of sick serviceman.

Campaigners set up an appeal in 2003 to raise money for the statue which will be unveiled in 2015 to mark the 160th anniversary of Seacole’s arrival in Crimea.

They have nearly reached their £500,000 target.

Lord Clive Soley of Hammersmith, chairman of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, said: “The campaign has been long, but it has been favoured by a hard-working committee and many, many supporters, large and small, including nurses, schoolchildren and army units.

“We are confident that this statue to a brave, enterprising and caring woman will honour her and recall her memory and that of the British troops who she lovingly served.”

CELEBRATION: Supporters of the Mary Seacole Statue Appeal at the site dedication

Sir Hugh Taylor, chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust added: "Mary Seacole was a pioneer for the generations of nurses and other staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who have served the NHS so well over the years.

“She remains a positive role model for the current generation of nurses who help us to ensure that our workforce is representative of the diversity of the local population that we serve in south London and beyond. The trust is proud to be hosting the statue at St Thomas' Hospital."

A dedication plaque was erected to mark where the statue will be placed. It was unveiled by actress Suzanne Packer who is an ambassador for the appeal.

“The Mary Seacole Memorial Statue is so much more than a piece of art,” she said. “It represents a validation of her existence as a great human being and as we are all intrinsically linked through past, present and future it connects with my life and makes me proud, particularly as a black woman in this country, to have such a powerful and courageous role model.”

The statue is being created by sculptor Martin Jennings whose statue of Sir John Betjeman at St Pancras station is now a celebrated landmark.

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