Page 4, 15th August 1947

15th August 1947
Page 4
Page 4, 15th August 1947 — Catholic Profiles:I I 61

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Catholic Profiles:I I 61


M.D. (Edin.), D.P.H., London

CATHOLIC platforms up and CATHOLIC the country know Dr. Letitia Fairfield very well. There can be no public speaker in greater demand than she is. A challenging, rousing, courageous, stimulating, provocative personality, she can be counted on to stir the most lethargic audience into life and to illuminate dark corners with hem knowledge and wit. Complacency is not in her vocabulary; neither is quiescence. She not only leaps into the oratorical fray; she revels in it. She never comes on to any platform unless she is armed with facts and figures to support her arguments and very, very definitely she knows what she likes and what she doesn't.

The most important thing about Dr. Fairfield is that she likes people. She has worked for them all

her life. During the 36 years she has worked as Senior Medical Officer for the London County Council. people have been her chief concern —from the abandoned baby on the hospital doorstep to the mentally deficient. Her long service as public health and hospital administrator for the vast London area has done nothing to turn her into the sort of person who talks about " the masses." Every human being who comes within her orbit remains an individual with body and soul to be cared for. How she manages to cram so much into the clay is her own secret. No ordinary diary could hold her list of engagements and trying to fit her into a Profile is not an easy task. At best it must be a rough plan for a biographical sketch. Here it is.

LETITIA was born in Melbourne, but by the time she was three years old her parents came back to this country. Her mother came from the Scottish Highlands—member of a family of three generations of professional musicians, an accomplished pianist whose brother was the composer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, President of the Royal Academy of Music. Her father, Charles Fairfield, was of Anglo-Irish stock and, as his daughter herself describes her paternal ancestors, they were Protestants of the blackest, " soupers " and loyalists. " Oddly enough," she has said: " My father had a much greater understanding and sympathy with the Catholic position than my Presbyterian mother, who had been• reared like many Scots of her day, in a real horror of the Church and with the strangest misconceptions about it."

Two other girls were born into the Fairfield family—one of whom is now a distinguished figure in the world of literature—Rebecca West. Their father died while they were still young and Mrs. Fairfield had to face the task of educating her children alone. True, the home had already donc more for the girls than any school could do—they had listened to stories of the famous musicians of mid-Victorian Germany—Liszt and Rubinstein—told by their mother; stories of an incredibly thrilling and remote Kerry of the '50's, told by their father; of the American C.vil War in which he had been a stretcher-bearer for the South; of the Australian Bush; of all the treasures of history and great literature.

AT the age of 17 Letitia became a medical student at Edinburgh, when " she won the Bathgatc Memorial Prize, Royal Col'ege of Surgeons. After graduation came four years in Dublin hospitals and then, in 1911, came the appointment with the L.C.C., which she has held with distinction ever since. The two wars broke into this period of service to London's civil community—there was the appointment as Lieut.-Colonel in the R.A.M.C. in the flYst war and that of medical adviser at the War Office to the A.T.S. in the second. Between wars there had been a visit to the West Indies with a Health Commission in 1920 and a lecture tour to Malta in 1938 on behalf of the Colonial Office.

In 1923 Dr. Fairfield was made a barrister-at-law, being called to the Bar at the Middle Temple. Thc' year before she was received into the Catholic Church. " It was quite the most exciting and important thing that has happened to me," she has said. "I think we converts meet

(Continued on page 5.)

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