Tribute: Sister Shonat Fiddes
All midwives are special, but some are exceptional, and one of the best of those, Shonat Fiddes, died on her 91st birthday, 28 March 2018. Shonat’s friend, Ann Stowers, has been able to confirm that Shonat died peacefully in her own home in Halifax.
Sister Fiddes was a beloved nurse who served Wendover from the late 1950s to 1975 and will be remembered by many for being a “proper, old-fashioned midwife/District Nurse”.
She was born into the fishing community of Old Aberdeen where she grew up. In acknowledgement of this, she was described by her good friend Ann Stowers as “Twinkling Granite”. Her father served as an engineer with the Arctic Convoys but did not return. Her mother refused to admit her for Higher Education so she trained in secretarial and book-keeping. By 19 she had registered for general training as a nurse and then specialised in mid-wifery. She never looked back. A committed Christian, Shonat was only prevented from missionary work by TB. Instead she worked with the Ranyard Mission Nursing service in Kensington – “Call the Midwife” was very much her territory. She worked by the principle that everyone she met should benefit from her care; thus she became part of the family for so many locally both, young and old.
Sylvia Levitt, a member of Wendover Free Church, an amalgamation of Wendover Baptist and United Reformed (formerly Congregational) Churches, remembers Shonat as an enthusiastic member of the congregation at Wendover Baptist Church. The building is still in South Street. Inevitably, Sister Fiddes was a midwife for Sylvia’s youngest child in 1964.
“Not only was she a support during pregnancy and delivery, but also very importantly in the months and years after producing our babies. Drop in sessions at the Health Centre and Monday Club provided gentle advice and a shoulder to cry on. Many of us kept in touch over the years, updating her on our babies and then their babies! Shonat, Sister Fiddes, brought joy to the world and will be missed by many.” wrote Cate Bowley, Clare Owen, and Jane Rutland.
Dr Riley remembers: “Quite simply, Sister Fiddes was the best midwife I ever worked with. (As Squadron Leader in charge of Obstetrics and Gynae at RAF Halton Hospital, I had worked with a fair number by the time I moved to take over Obstetrics within the Wendover GP practice in 1957).
“We were a good team: she always knew when to call me in. In those days, we would stay with the mother throughout labour, and visited new mums and babies every day for a full two weeks after the birth to help with care of both so she had a particularly keen understanding of the issues and difficulties of those early days after birth, and her calm manner and practical support were much appreciated.
“After working well together for so many years, I was very sad to lose her when she moved from the practice, but many families in Wendover still have happy and grateful memories of her.”
Christopher Dean wrote, “Sister Fiddes was a rock to my entire family when I was growing up. We even went Carol Singing with her and she sent me a present every Christmas. My Grandmother became difficult when she was ill but Shonat rose above it all and soon Grandma became putty in her hands. She ended up being friends with Mum right up until Mum passed away and then she became my friend. She really will be missed by many.”
Shonat Fiddes moved up to Halifax when home deliveries were being phased out in Buckinghamshire, and our loss was Yorkshire’s gain. She was definitely missed when she left Wendover and there is no doubt that she will be sadly missed by those whose lives she touched in Halifax where she retrained to be a Health Visitor when over 50. She continued to be an engaged member of her church, and showing an example of faith in action in the work place. She firmly believed that prayer is work and work is prayer but was always happy to sing for the Lord, too – she joined her first church choir aged 6. Her funeral was at Lee Mount Baptist Church, Halifax, on 27 April.