Express & Star

Heartfelt Sister Dora letter appears in family history magazine

A heartfelt letter that was penned by Sister Dora in 1878 has been featured in a popular family history magazine.

The letter revealling Sister Dora's romance with businessman Kenyon Jones

The letter appeared in the 2023 edition of 'Who Do You Think You Are?', a spin-off of the original BBC television series of the same name which explores celebrities' family histories.

The letter was selected as part of the magazine's 'Gem from the Archive' feature, where an archivist is selected to discuss a highlight from their collections.

The letter, addressed to Kenyon Jones, read, "My darling, My darling, I dare not see you, it agitates me so much. I feel almost like it might kill me. I am sure it only distresses you to see me in such a state and I cannot prevent it.

"Ah Kenyon, you must not fret for me or grieve – I think I shall soon lay down the cross and must exchange it for a crown."

Ian Gray, archivist at Walsall Council, decided to put forward a letter written by Sister Dora on October 30, 1878.

Mr Gray said: "Sister Dora is synonymous with Walsall and to this day is held in the highest esteem by the people of the borough.

"The collection of letters that we hold here at Walsall Archives offers a view of her as a human being like you or me, outside of the formal, reverential image with which she is associated."

Dorothy Pattison, known as Sister Dora, was a nun who selflessly ministered to the people of Walsall – a statue dedicated to the nun has stood proud in Walsall Town Centre since 1886.

Mr Gray continued: "The final letter in the collection is incredibly poignant and is also the final time she made contact with Kenyon Jones and the first he would have known of the seriousness of her illness as she had kept her situation secret from everyone but those who had to know.

"This Christmas Eve marks the 145th anniversary of her passing, so the publication of this article in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine Christmas edition is particularly apt. "

The secret letters, which were discovered after she passed away, revealed her romance with local businessman Kenyon Jones.

Talking about the letter, Councillor Gary Perry, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resilient communities, said: " Sister Dora was an exceptional woman whose inspirational work during the 1860s and 1870s set the standard for healthcare locally.

"These letters really showcase the fascinating history told within our archives of this great town. Gaining insight like this into a Walsall hero is a true privilege, and it is great to see part of her story told in a well-known and respected publication."

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