‘Rebel’ nurse’s effort is remembered on Wigglesworth plaque

Craven Herald: Minerva Robinson, of Wigglesworth – the only woman on the First World War Memorial in the village Minerva Robinson, of Wigglesworth – the only woman on the First World War Memorial in the village

There are 19 names on the plaque honouring the people of Wigglesworth who went to serve King and country during the First World War. Astonishingly, only one was killed.

The list starts with the Lord of the Manor, Lord Lucas and progresses in alphabetical order to the last man, Alfred Wray, but it doesn’t finish there. Tucked in below Alfred and out of sequence is Minerva Robinson, the only female.

It’s a rare thing to see a woman named on a memorial to those who served in the 1914-18 war and, in the Wigglesworth case, apart from Royal Flying Corps pilot, Lord Lucas, whom we are told was killed in action on November 3, 1916, she is the only person to be given a description. Minerva, or Minnie to her family, was a nurse.

Her relatives, including her niece, 90-year-old Margaret Graham of Giggleswick, have joined other people related to the names on the plaque, in rededicating the memorial, which now has pride of place in the village community centre.

It was once the village school, Clarke’s Old School, and recently underwent a £400,000 re-fit thanks to a Lottery grant and money from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust Leader Fund.

There is not a more appropriate place for the plaque as both Minerva and her sister Mary Elizabeth, known as Polly – Mrs Graham’s mother – became pupils at the school when their parents moved to the village before the First World War.

The rededication was overseen by the Skipton branch of the Royal British Legion to the sound of The Last Post and a recital of Binyon’s For The Fallen.

“It was a wonderful and very moving occasion,” said Mrs Graham, who was trained as an orthopaedic nurse and physiotherapist. “It can be in no better place and I feel so happy that I have seen it happen.”

Minerva was “something of a rebel” within the family and was determined to become a nurse despite opposition, Mrs Graham recalled.

She needed permission from her family to begin training because she was under 21.

“It was thought she wouldn’t last long,” Mrs Graham explained. “Grandpa took her to Long Preston station in a horse and trap and as he left her, he said ‘I’ll give you a week’.

“Years later after she had stuck at it and become a brilliant nurse, making a career of it, she said that if he had not said that she would have come home.”

Minerva trained at Victoria Hospital in Keighley and then went on to join the military as an army nurse, serving her time at St Luke's Hospital in Bradford, which was taken over by the armed forces. She married one of the hospital orderlies, had two children, lived in Bradford and after the war continued as a nurse, later doing private work.

The memorial tablet was at first installed in the Wesleyan Chapel in 1919, later finding a home in the village post office when the chapel closed.

A booklet was published at the same time containing information about all the individuals, which is now with the plaque in the community centre.

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