Dr. Elizabeth Hilliard

Dr. Bunbury, the widow of Dr. Leslie Hilliard, died in her 98th year on 10 June 2001.

She was the only child of missionaries, born in Hong Kong in 1903. She started her medical training in 1921 at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, and decided to specialise in mental illness once she had qualified.

She met and married Dr. Hilliard in 1936 while they were both at the Maudsley Hospital, and throughout their 60 years together their partnership extended to all their activities in a manner reminiscent of Beatrice and Sidney Webb.

After the Second World War, Dr. Bunbury worked to rehabilitate patients damaged by war service and also with the survivors of the Japanese POW camps. She and her husband were by then very active members of the Socialist Medical Association.

Both were on Central Council and were members of the SMA group known as “The Buniards”, playing a leading and consistent role in the demand for a National Health Service. They also campaigned avidly to humanise the treatment of mental illnesses.

Elizabeth Bunbury was for many years the editor of Medicine Today and Tomorrow and its successor journal, Socialism & Health. She was also Honorary Secretary of the SMA for five years until 1950.

Dr. Bunbury was fascinated by plants, nature and gardening. After the War she created a garden at the Tooting Bec Hospital out of the post war debris, planting cherry trees and turning the garden into a haven for bees as well as a calm and pleasant space for the patients of the Hospital.

She and her husband also established a children’s zoo there for the benefit of children who otherwise had little contact with animals.

On their retirement to Bath, she and her husband fostered a number of museums and she continued to develop beautiful gardens. She was also instrumental in the restoration of the ruined Lansdown Tower, beside which her ashes were scattered, joining those of her father and her late husband.

When Elizabeth Bunbury retired in 1950 as Hon. Secretary of the SMA, Somerville Hastings paid her and her husband the following tribute:

“it is not only for what they have done that Elizabeth and Leslie deserve the respect and affection of us all, it is for what they have been and are – the best of friends and colleagues, always ready to listen always ready to help.

It is because they have put above all else the welfare of the organisation they have so well served and because they have maintained in it the true spirit of socialism that we revere and respect them.”