Constance Watney

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Constance Watney (1878 – 23 November 1947), M.B.E., C.O.C., S.R.N., M.B.C.N., was a British born missionary nurse in Uganda.

Early years[edit]

Constance Watney was born in 1878 in Beddington, Surrey. She was the fourth daughter of Norman Watney of Westerham, Kent, son of James Watney the brewer.

Early in life Constance dedicated herself to missionary work, and for this purpose trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1906 she went as a student of midwifery to Clapham Maternity Hospital, a pioneering hospital training women for work both at home and abroad[1] and took her CMB Examination.

Missionary work in Uganda[edit]

In 1908 Constance was accepted by the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) and sent out to Kampala, Uganda, where she worked in the Mengo Hospital under Dr., later Sir, Albert Ruskin Cook. Mengo Hospital is on Namirembe hill in Kampala.

In 1917 Mengo hospital, in addition to its missionary work, served as a base hospital for the fighting in East Africa, and for her share of the very heavy work "Sister Connie", as she was called, received the MBE in 1918.[2]

For nursing an official of the Belgian Government, Sister Connie was awarded the very rare honour of Croix de l’Ordre de la Couronne (Order of the Crown (Seventh Class).[3]

In May 1921 Constance Watney joined Dr Algernon "Algie" Stanley Smith (who had been brought up by Constance's maiden aunts, Alice and Emily Watney in South Croydon after the death of his mother when he was a young teenager[4]) and Dr Len Sharp at Kabale, in south west Uganda where they a new beginning was made for missionary work into Ruanda, in Belgian territory. She helped to start a hospital, where she was the first matron,[5] under very difficult conditions and they were able to receive the first patient in June 1922.[6]

Invalided home[edit]

In 1923 Sister Connie contracted a very severe form of Bright's Disease and was invalided home, never to return. She was told her life must henceforth be that of an invalid, but her heart was too much in nursing to give it up, and she went back to Clapham, where she had received her maternity training, and worked in various capacities there under Dr. Annie McCall until the hospital was bombed in 1940.[7]

Constance died on 23 November 1947.

Missionary heritage[edit]

Constance's sister Katherine (Kate) was a missionary in China with CEZMS (Church of England Zenana Missionary Society). Her niece, Faith, was a missionary with CMS in Sudan, and married Leonard Sharland. Two of their sons, Roger and David, have also been missionaries in Sudan, as is their grandson, Emmanuel.

See also[edit]

British nursing matrons from the 19th century


  1. ^
  2. ^ Supplement to the London Gazette, 4 October 1918.
  3. ^ The British Journal of Nursing, 7 December 1918
  4. ^
  5. ^ Makower, Katharine (2008) Not a Gap Year but a Lifetime. Apologia Publications
  6. ^ Osborn, H.H. (1991) Fire in the Hills. Highland Books
  7. ^ Obituary in The British Journal of Nursing January 1948