Edith Jane Rouncefield

(1899-1983) - FANY

Renowned in later life for serving stewed tea, Edith joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in the war, but did not serve overseas. The daughter of a St Ives fish merchant, she married a Swedish man, and retired to Mevagissey. Here, in the 1970s, she played a major role in the development of the museum.

Credit: Mevagissey Museum

Read full story

Born in December 1899, Edith was the eldest daughter of Daniel Rouncefield, a St Ives fish merchant and fish buyer.  In 1911 Daniel, his wife Edith Jane, and their four daughters were living at Long Ships in Halsetown.  It was probably from here that Edith the younger volunteered to join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY), now known as the Princess Royal’s Volunteer Corps.  She was certainly photographed in her smart new uniform, with Red Cross armband, at a Truro photographic studio.

The First Aid Nursing Yeomanry was an all-female volunteer organisation set up in the wake of the Boer War.  The idea was that women trained in first aid could ride onto the battlefield on horse-back and attend to the wounded.  FANYS supplied their own uniforms and, initially, were expected to provide their own horses.  By 1914, most were employed as ambulance drivers, whether horse-drawn or motorised.  Edith never went abroad, probably because she was considered too young. 

Edith married a Swedish man, Frank Oskar Mattson, in December 1933, but had no children.   A photograph of them from 1938 survives.  The Mattsons retired to Mevagissey in the 1950s.  Here Edith was famous for her stewed tea which she kept going on the stove in case anyone called.  More significantly, after Frank died in 1971, Edith made a major but, at the time, anonymous, contribution towards the development of Mevagissey Museum.  Edith died in 1983 and is buried with Frank in Gorran churchyard. 

Key words: women, nursing

Credit: Mevagissey Museum