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Name: DONKIN, Frances Violet, Miss

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Birth Date: 19 Sep 1875 Kenilworth

Death Date: 31 May 1922 Suguroi, Laikipia

First Date: 1908

Last Date: 1922

Profession: Nurse

Area: Nairobi

Married: In Nairobi 1917 Donald Sharp (1884-1949)

Children: none

Book Reference: Gazette, Gethin, Nicholls, Medals

General Information:

Gazette 1/10/1908 - Arrived on 1st Appointment - Nursing Sister - 23/9/1908
Old Africa - 21-4-16 - Christine Nicholls - Scott Sanatorium outside Nairobi under the leadership of the nurse and midwife (Frances) Violet Donkin. She was born on 19 September 1875 in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, the second daughter of Edward Francis Donkin and Margaret Russell Wilford, who died in 1884. She was the great-great-granddaughter of General Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin (Port Elizabeth in South Africa was named after his wife, as was the Donkin Reserve there, forever a green space in the centre of the city). Violet was brought up by her grandmother Elizabeth Wilford, of 9 Church Hill, Milverton, Warwickshire. She trained as a nurse at the Royal South Hampshire Hospital and Southampton Hospital, and in 1903 qualified as a midwife with a certificate from the London Obstetrical Society. At the age of thirty-three Violet departed for British East Africa on 4 September 1908, arriving in Mombasa on 29 September. She was then recruited to head the Scott Memorial Sanatorium, an advertisement for which appeared in The Leader on 2 August 1913.
The Sanatorium flourished, with Violet active in her fundraising efforts, as detailed in the local paper:
The Leader – 10 October 1913
The dance given last Friday in aid of the Scott Sanatorium was a great success. The fine Railway Institute, so well equipped for dancing … Smart society was well represented, while our visitors from the provinces, at Nairobi during Race Week, largely patronised the affair. The Stewards … were indefatigable in their attention to make everyone happy and comfortable. The supper was lavish and well laid out, supplied by Mr Campling of the Carlton Lounge … The band of the KAR supplied the music. Miss Donkin and the stewards are to be congratulated on the success of their efforts.
The Leader – 1 November 1913
The Scott Sanatorium, under the skilful management of Miss Donkin, is going ahead and flourishing; at the present time being taxed to its full capacity. Among the occupants are Mr Claydon who, it will be remembered, was recently mauled by a lion, and who is progressing favourably; Mr Outram the well-known hunter; Messrs. A.E.Townsend, J.W.Parker, and Lieutenant Lloyd Jones. The present staff is somewhat overtaxed, but additional nurses are expected to arrive shortly.
H.K. Wood, wrote to The Leader (26 July 1913) with the suggestion that ‘all settlers, who feel ‘rotten’ and that life is not worth living try a course of, say, fourteen days at the Scott Sanatorium’ (Chania Bridge, 17 July). Violet Donkin, however, was soon to leave her post:
The Leader -24 January1914
We are sorry to learn upon medical advice Miss Donkin has left for England for a change and we understand the popular lady is leaving with much regret so soon after the establishment of the Home; but she hopes her absence will not be for long.
It is highly likely that Violet left because her fiancé, Fritz Schindler, died in January 1914, actually in the Scott Sanatorium, after being mauled by a lion.
Old Africa - 19-5-16 - Christine Nicholls - in an obscure journal of Brian Havelock Potts held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, we find that Potts served in the army after the outbreak of the First World War, contracted amoebic dysentery, and was taken to the Scott Sanatorium. There he was nursed by Violet Donkin, who had clearly returned to East Africa. She was, he learnt, to have been married to one Fritz Schindler before he was killed by a lion. If we then look at when Schindler met his unhappy fate, we find it was in January 1914. He was taken, badly gored, to the Scott Sanatorium, where he died. He must therefore have been nursed by his own fiancée. It is no wonder that she felt she must have a break.
Old Africa - 19-5-16 - Christine Nicholls - Violet Donkin returned to the Scott Sanatorium and resumed nursing. On the outbreak of the First World War the sanatorium was taken over by the government to treat military personnel, specifically with dysentery. Violet met the farmer Donald Sharp, of Sirimma, Suguroi, Laikipia, while she was nursing him back to health at the Sanatorium after he was wounded in the war. She married him in 1917. The lavish wedding party was held at Chiromo, Northrup McMillan’s house. The pair did not have any children and Violet died of cardiac failure at the farm on 31 May 1922. She was only 47. In her will she left £121.16.8d. Donald married again and died on 21 February 1949. He is buried in Nyeri cemetery.
Gazette - 27/2/1924 - Electoral Register - Sharp, Francis Violet, Married woman, Suguroi ? WW Pike report on visit to British East Africa
2 January 1918. Inspected Kijabe Sanatorium for [Page 5] fourteen Officers and twenty-five men. Run by Miss V Donkin, East African Nursing Services.
This place has been much neglected by Lieutenant Colonel AL Scott, Royal Army Medical Corps, the Officer Commanding No 3 British General Hospital, who was placed in charge of it for administrative purposes in January 1916, vide Appendix 3, and has never since visited it.
He has left it to be entirely managed by Miss Donkin (without even an orderly or nursing orderly of any sort since August) and this was only put right five days ago by the Assistant Director of Medical Services, who after a visit at Christmas, sent two orderlies temporarily, one for ward and compounder work, and one for sanitation.
No instructions on the routine treatment of malaria (from which the majority of the patients suffer had been sent to Miss Donkin, whose treatment was, in consequence, not up to date and ineffective.
Lieutenant-Colonel Scott apparently took no interest whatever in Kijabe, and we consider it was shamefully neglected by him. We regret that we also consider the Assistant Director of Medical Services to blame in not having ascertained that Lieutenant-Colonel Scott never went there, and in not ordering him to inspect regularly.

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