Obituary of Patricia Dale

My mother, Patricia Dale, who has died aged 103, was a pioneering doctor, activist and socialist who became general secretary of the Medical Practitioners’ Union. She used her expertise in industrial health to speak out against the expansion of Stansted airport in the early 2000s.

Pat was born in Southampton, the daughter of Clemency (née Wharton) and Cyrus Lloyd, a merchant seaman, and her childhood was shaped by the loss of her mother to tuberculosis when she was nine. Her father then married a wealthy widow who wanted Pat to become a debutante. However, Pat insisted on leaving home to study medicine at University College London, one of the few women to do so at the time.

After graduating in 1945, she served as a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and went to India, where she treated casualties of the war in Burma (now Myanmar). A brief wartime marriage to Keith Elliott ended in divorce, although Pat retained the Elliott name for professional use.

On her return to the UK in 1947, she began studying public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where she met Dr Gordon Evans, a widower with a young daughter. They married in 1949 and moved to Chesham, Buckinghamshire, where they worked in public health. Pat ran community clinics for babies and children. They were active supporters of the Labour Party and CND, with Gordon becoming the first medical adviser to the TUC.

He died suddenly in 1961, leaving Pat the sole carer of five children, four of whom were under the age of five. She had recently qualified as a barrister and was keen to integrate legal work into her medical career, but was forced to return to work, first as a GP and then as general secretary of the Medical Practitioners’ Union. Within a year she had given a speech at the TUC conference, then, with the sociologist Margot Jefferys, a study conducted among female physicians.

In 1962 she married Clunie Dale, then the Social Insurance Secretary at the TUC. Pat became Medical Director of Harlow Industrial Health Service (now Harlow Occupational Health Service).

She was involved with Amnesty International from the first campaign in the early 1960s to release two imprisoned Portuguese doctors who opposed the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, and remained an activist after her retirement, joining the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign in 2002 and working as an occupational health consultant. Her work in industrial health meant that she was an expert on environmental hazards and pollutants, and she gave evidence as the campaign’s expert on air quality to the inquiry in 2007.

Throughout her life she remained an avid traveller: in the early 1970s she drove with her children in a large caravan through communist Eastern Europe. She was also an avid theatre-goer and enjoyed organising dinner parties.

Clunie died in 2006. Pat is survived by her five children: Anthony, Julie, Robert, Andrew and I from her marriage to Gordon, and Jane, from her marriage to Clunie; four stepchildren: Rosemary, Anna Clare, Richard and Diana; 18 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.