Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The 1st Angel of the North; BOOK CHRONICLES THE AMAZING LIFE OF GATESHEAD WOMAN

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

The 1st Angel of the North; BOOK CHRONICLES THE AMAZING LIFE OF GATESHEAD WOMAN

Article excerpt

Byline: By LINDA RICHARDS

SHE can arguably be called the first Angel of the North.

Winifred Laver was small in stature but her heart was as big as the Angel.

Now the story of her work on Tyneside is revealed for the first time in decades in a new book.

Born into a well-to-do family in Birkenhead in 1888 she had all the trappings wealth could bring.

It was a far cry from the starving bare-footed souls she saw on the streets of Liverpool who were to change her life and bring her to Gateshead where her work saved countless lives and earned her an MBE.

With a compulsion to help the needy and against the wishes of her family, she became a Methodist deaconess and trained as a nurse.

By 1911 she was in charge of a girl's home in Surrey, and afterwards served in Cheshire, where she became ill with TB. After several months' rest, she made a recovery and was thinking about going to China as a missionary when a post came up in Gateshead.

At the time Gateshead had the worst record of tuberculosis in the country and her parents were horrified she considering going there. The family doctor was recruited to dissuade her and predicted if she went she would live for only a year.

Despite the pleas, she headed north with the words of her parents ringing in her ears: "You are throwing your life away, going to such an awful place".

But she believed this was what God wanted and arrived at the Mission Church in Vine Street in 1916. She saw a lot of very poor people. Most children were without shoes, their fathers were away fighting in the war and they had little to eat.

One of her first tasks was to start a surgery for people who could not afford a doctor.

Starvation was common so she began providing breakfasts before church on Sunday mornings. Word got around and her congregation swelled.

At one time Sister Winifred had the biggest Girl Guide Troop in the country and a sizeable Boy Scout group. …

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