Obituary: Popular locum GP dies aged 99

Barbara Vaudrey pictured during the 1980s

Barbara Vaudrey pictured during the 1980s - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

A popular locum GP who became a strong advocate for the benefits of contraception during the 1950s has died at the age of 99. 

Overcoming adversity and discrimination from her peers, Barbara Vaudrey went on to become a successful doctor who immersed herself in her community of Stoke Ash near Eye, Suffolk. 

She also embraced life, participating in many different interests and hobbies from bell ringing and painting, to card-playing and sock-darning. 

Born on October 29, 1922, in Walthamstow, she was the daughter of Reginald Guley and Katharine (Day) Lewis.  

She attended Loughton High School before becoming a pupil at St Felix School, Southwold.

In 1940, she was evacuated to Tintagel, Cornwall, along with the rest of the school, as the Dunkirk evacuation got underway. It took 12 hours by train because they kept being shunted in favour of evacuees.   

Barbara Vaudrey in 1942 after enlisting the Auxiliary Territorial Service

Barbara Vaudrey in 1942 after enlisting the Auxiliary Territorial Service - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

In 1942, she enlisted Auxiliary Territorial Service and learned to maintain anti-aircraft guns, height and range finders, dial sights, and binoculars. Both organised and resourceful, she figured out how to do things that usually required more strength than she, and many other women, had.  

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Towards the end of the Second World War, she did make-up and made soft props for the Stars in Battledress - an organisation of entertainers who were members of the British Armed Forces. 

After serving, her mother instructed her to “get a degree and the means to support yourself”, so she began studying medicine.  

She qualified from London University in 1953 in spite of the “appalling treatment” by men, both lecturers, medics, and fellow students. 

Barbara Vaudrey during the 1960s, enjoying a successful career as a GP

Barbara Vaudrey during the 1960s, enjoying a successful career as a GP - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

She began working as a house physician at Barnet General Hospital before becoming its house surgeon. She then worked in general practice medicine in north west London from 1955-1969, before working as a locum GP in Norfolk and Suffolk until 2004. 

She was also an assistant police surgeon for Suffolk County Constabulary from 1974-1987 and medical office for a boxing club. 

A seminal event in her early career came about in Dublin, Ireland, when she worked with impoverished mothers who had many children, sometimes 10 or more. She became a strong advocate for the benefits of contraception and was able to relate to her own experiences of having the baby from her first pregnancy adopted.  

Her daughter, Caroline, said: “Her popularity was such that there were patients who would wait until her next spell of locum duty, rather than see the doctor with whom they were registered.  

“She also did two locum stints in Canada during winters and would have liked to become a partner in our local practice. Aged 50, she was considered too old to take it on. She worked into her 80s.”  

She was a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners and was on its faculty board between 1975 and 1988, the British Medical Association, and the British Association for Advancement of Science. 

Barbara and Oliver Vaudrey on their wedding day in 1954

All smiles: Barbara and Oliver Vaudrey on their wedding day in 1954 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

She married Oliver Claude Vaudrey on July 10, 1954, and together they had three children; Claude William (Bill), Joseph Henry (Joe), and Caroline Annual. 

Her daughter said: “She was caring with a strong work ethic, conscientious, concise, and had incredible self-control. She always said that charity is not just about giving but also doing. She was also a good listener and was reliable.” 

A favourite family memory is a time when friends were being entertained for the evening, as Caroline explained. 

“There was an accident and the pudding was tipped into the sink by a friend.  

“Mum put the plug in, handed her a ladle, and told her to scoop it into the bowl. Everyone was fine but the only one who didn’t have the pudding was the friend.” 

Barbara and Oliver Vaudrey ahead of their wedding anniversary in 1993

Barbara and Oliver Vaudrey ahead of their wedding anniversary in 1993 - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Vaudrey had many interests and hobbies, including sewing, embroidery, lacework, knitting, and mending, especially darning socks, which she did into her mid-nineties. 

She also enjoyed painting and attended art classes during the 1970s, reading until her sight deteriorated, sailing, the card game patience which she played three times a night every night for many decades, making pickles and jams, carpentry, metalwork, and learning hedge laying when she was aged in her eighties. 

She disliked music but enjoyed bell ringing during the 1970s and 1980s.  

Barbara Vaudrey with a bell-ringing group from the 1970s/1980s

Barbara Vaudrey with a bell-ringing group from the 1970s/1980s - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Caroline added: “She also always said that she hated fish, but often chose it from a restaurant menu. Matter of fact.” 

Mrs Vaudrey was very much a woman who was shaped by her early life and maintained a make-do-and-mend attitude.  

Other accolades include being a former chair of the Stoke Ash Parish Council and of the Stoke Ash Women's Institute, and a former member and president of a local Royal British Legion branch.  

Barbara Vaudrey pictured on her 94th birthday

Barbara Vaudrey pictured on her 94th birthday - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

Mrs Vaudrey died on December 17 at Hartismere Place Care Home, in Eye. As well as her children, she leaves behind five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. 

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