Lillian McAllister

Lillian McAllister, Assistant Superintendent of Nurses

Just over three weeks after Lillian McAllister, Assistant Superintendant of Nurses, died in August 1935, the new home for nurses at the Royal Columbian Hospital was named the “Lillian McAllister Memorial Home” in her honour.

Miss McAllister, aged 57, died on duty at the hospital she loved. Just before the 7 am shift change on August 5 1935, having just called the roll, she was leading prayers in the lounge room of the new nurses’ home, when she collapsed and died almost immediately of a stroke.

Her funeral was beautiful and impressive. The service, attended by more than 500 people, was held in the lounge of the nurses’ home. The cortege passed through a guard of honour consisting of 200 uniformed nurses holding floral tributes, then proceeded up Sherbrooke St. and along Richmond St. to Fraser Cemetery. Doctors from the hospital were honorary pall bearers, but the casket was borne by family members.

She graduated from the RCH School of Nursing in 1913, then did private nursing for four years. From 1917 to 1930 she was Superintendent of the RCH maternity ward, and was appointed Assistant Superintendent of Nurses in 1931. She was an honorary member of the New Westminster Graduate Nurses Association as well as Past President and member of the Council of the Provincial Graduate Nurses Association. She was well loved and respected by all who knew her, and her contribution to the hospital and nursing profession were recognized when she was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee medal in May 1935.

But the woman New Westminster knew as Miss Lillian McAllister, was actually named Lilliater McAllister when she was born in Molesworth, Huron County, Ontario in January 1879. The second eldest child of Robert and Jane McAllister, she was known as Lily. Her father Robert and his brother Hugh each had ten children, and in 1907 they took their wives, all 20 children and all their family possessions, including horses, by train across Canada to settle in British Columbia. From their arrival in New Westminster, all records refer to Lily, then 28 years of age, as Lillian, so it was likely a deliberate change on her part. She enrolled in the RCH School of Nurses in 1911 as Miss Lillian McAllister and the community of New Westminster knew her only by that name.

The McAllister building was demolished and replaced by the 1971 Pavilion that included modular, prefabricated units facing Columbia Street. The Pavilion is now gone as well, but the name and the memory of Lillian McAllister remains strong in the history of the Royal Columbian Hospital.

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One Comment on “Lillian McAllister”

  1. […] others on the tour will be the grave and story of Lillian McAllister, a well loved nurse who died on duty and after whom the nursing home was named in 1935, and Dr. […]

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