Home health Dr Helen Humphreys obituary

Dr Helen Humphreys obituary


My mother-in-law, Dr Helen Humphreys, who has died aged 101, was medical officer for Birmingham’s Family Planning Association in the 1960s and 70s.

In the mid-60s she became the first doctor in the FPA’s groundbreaking domiciliary visiting service, which addressed the contraceptive needs of women – many financially challenged or non-English speakers – who were reluctant to seek such advice outside their homes. It became, she recalled, “the largest such service in Britain, and the work of which I feel most proud”.

She was born in Birmingham to Edward Mason, an industrial chemist, and Elsie (nee Berkeley). Both were influential figures in the start-up and growth of the city’s first family planning clinic; Helen recalled visiting it aged nine, helping her mother pack parcels of birth control supplies to send to patients.

She attended Edgbaston high school and was accepted in the late 1930s by Cambridge University’s all-female Newnham College to study medicine. A diligent student, she was also active in CUSC, the university’s socialist club.

Back in Birmingham in the early 40s, she met another medical student, David Humphreys; both music lovers, they enthusiastically played the piano together. In 1944 they married and Helen began her long career, first in general practice, then working primarily for the FPA.

Helen continued her work with the FPA into the 1970s and also worked for the city’s Brook Advisory Centre. She was involved with setting up Birmingham’s Pregnancy Advisory Service from 1968, against fierce opposition.

In 1965 she and David bought Knill Court, a small property on the Welsh borders near Presteigne that offered spectacular views of hills and green valleys. After years spent extending and renovating it, they finally moved there in 1980. With their knowledge of music they made an immediate impact on the area, helping to found the Presteigne festival, which began in 1983 and has flourished ever since.

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David died in 2011, four years after suffering a serious stroke. Helen continued to be an influential, well-loved figure in the Presteigne area, playing her cello and piano and attending festival concerts well into her 90s.

She is survived by three of her four children – Carolyn, Bridget and Philippa. Her youngest daughter, Nicola, died in 2017.



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