In the museum there’s a recording of Florence Nightingale’s voice. A recording made on 30th July 1890, 127 years ago. In a high-pitched voice, Florence says: ‘When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life. God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale.’ Poignant words, as once again, it will soon be the anniversary of her death.
She died at 2pm on 13th August, 1910. The plain inscription on her family grave is Florence Nightingale’s instruction. She didn’t want to be buried with any ‘pomp and circumstance’ or I imagine, any angels weeping over her.
A Kensal Green Cemetery Angel by Richard Alois.
An obituary for Florence Nightingale appeared in The Times on August 15, 1910.
We deeply regret to state that Miss Florence Nightingale, O.M., the organizer of the Crimean War Nursing Service, died at her residence, 10, South-street, Park-lane, on Saturday afternoon. She had been unwell about a week ago, but had recovered her usual cheerfulness on Friday. On Saturday morning, however, she became seriously ill and she gradually sank until death occurred about 2 o’clock. The cause of death was heart failure. Two members of her family were present at the time.
Miss Nightingale, who had for some time been an invalid and had been under the constant care of Sir Thomas Barlow, was in her 91st year. She celebrated her 90th birthday on May 12 last, and one of the first acts of the present King since coming to the throne-King Edward had died on May 6-was to send her a telegram of congratulation. The message was worded as follow:-
“On the occasion of your 90th birthday I offer you my heartfelt congratulation, and trust that you are in good health.-GEORGE R. & I.”
The funeral will take place in the course of the next few days, and will be of the quietest possible character in accordance with the strongly expressed wish of Miss Nightingale.
I read more about her funeral at: http://www.countryjoe.com/nightingale/funeral.htm
This photograph can be found on the webpage.
‘E. Cook writes: Her desire that only two persons should follow the coffin could not be fulfilled. The funeral arrangements were kept as private as was possible; but there was a wreath of flowers from people of every kind, age and degree, and the lane and churchyard were filled with a great crowd of men, women, and children, most of them poorly dressed.’
There’s also a poem on the same webpage, very Victorian. by Lydia Adelaide Love:
At dead of night beside the dying stood
England’s true type of perfect womanhood.
It is “The Lady with the Lamp” we see
Walking the wards of stricken Scutari.
The light of love had sanctified the place;
A woman’s smile upon an angel’s face
Her life was like the plaintive chords that went
In a grand song on some sweet instrument.
Today our gentle nursing sisters stand,
An honour and a glory to our land.
While round their heart is ‘twinded the thrilling tale
Of their beloved Florence Nightingale.
In crowds they come, with sweet distinctive dress,
To crown her laurels with the dark cypress.
She rests in peace until that glorious day,
When morning breaks and shadows flee away!
Florence Nightingale (middle) in 1886 with her graduating class of nurses from St Thomas’ outside Claydon House, Buckinghamshire
Illustration by Franklin Booth
I also came across a poem found at:
A poem published in Evening News, Aug 16th, 1910, and quoted in Nursing Notes, Sept 1st 1910
At Chelsea, under the lime-tree’s stir,
I read the news to a Pensioner,
That a noble lord and a judge were dead –
‘They were younger men than me’, he said.
I read again of another death;
The old man turned, and caught his breath –
‘She’s gone?’ she said; ‘she too? In camp
We called her the Lady of the Lamp.
He would not listen to what I read,
But wanted it certain – ‘The Lady’s dead?’
I showed it to him, to remove his doubt,
And added, unthinking, ‘The Lamp is out’.
He rose – and I had to help him stand –
Then, as he saluted with trembling hand,
I was abashed to hear him say,
‘The Lamp she lit is alight to-day.’
Finally, the RCN are holding a candlelight vigil on 13th August.
‘Join us for an evening of quite reflection by the grave of Florence Nightingale’
For more details and to reserve a place, go to: