My mother, Sally Jones, who has died aged 84, dedicated her working life to nursing – and to the nursing profession – and was a campaigner for tolerance and equality.
Sally was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, to Nancy (nee Stewart) and Frank Gomersall, a group captain in the Royal Air Force. During the second world war Sally was evacuated from London to Wales. On return she was in the first cohort to sit GCE O-levels in 1951.
When she left Chiswick grammar school, London, aged 16, Sally trained as a state registered nurse at University College hospital in London. There she met a patient, Denis Megan, an RAF mechanic, who was suffering from tuberculosis at a time when recovery was rare. They married in 1957. He died in 1962, by which time she had three children. She returned to full-time nursing, at Queen Mary’s Roehampton, on the plastic surgery ward and Thalidomide children’s ward.
In 1965 Sally moved her young family to Basingstoke, where she became a ward sister at the district general hospital. In 1971 she moved from nursing at the hospital into clinical teaching, and in 1977 she became a regional officer at the Royal College of Nursing, the same year the RCN was formally registered as a trade union.
Bestowing an early sense of maturity and independence in her children, Sally devoted her life, regularly working a 70-hour week, to the needs of nurses, representing this predominantly female profession in disputes with mostly male management. Her fierce, firm and forceful reputation preceded her in these negotiations.
During a three-month sabbatical in 1985, Sally established strong links between the RCN and nurses in Lesotho, raising funds for horses to take the nurses toremote locations in the Children of Lesotho Immunisation Program. She was also active in the Send a Nurse to Africa (Santa) campaign, raising significant funds.
Sally eventually rose to the position of deputy general secretary at the RCN in 1990, initially to Trevor Clay and latterly to Christine Hancock, retiring at the age of 60.
After retirement, Sally divided her time between the UK and family in South Africa, where she celebrated the transition from apartheid to free elections in 1994.
Sally was an active member of the Labour party, a committed CND member and an avid supporter of the Women’s Peace Camp at Greenham Common. She was a Labour councillor for Basingstoke and Deane borough from 1997 to 2002, and served on its planning committee. Her social conscience was felt by everyone who met her.
After a brief second marriage in the 1970s, she kept her married name. She is survived by her three children, David, Barbara and me, and by seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.