Thanks to the Legacy Gift left by IAMAT member Violet Williams, we are able to award the IAMAT Violet Williams Scholarship to a doctor or nurse from an African country. The successful scholarship recipient participates in clinical observation and attends a travel medicine course offered by the South African Society of Travel Medicine (SASTM). After the course, the scholar returns home to teach their colleagues, improving healthcare for both travellers and local patients.
Violet Turnbull Williams was born on February 14, 1922 in Yorkshire, England, and grew up in the village of Ormesby. She was one of three remarkable children born to Fred and Em (née Gower) Turnbull.
Because of her reputation at the one-room school in the village and her love of reading, Vi, as she was known, was given the run of the library in the Squire's manor house. She was the first student in that little school to be granted a scholarship to extend her education. She was all set to continue to university, but World War II interrupted that. Though she never received an official degree, her love of learning persisted throughout her life.
Vi moved to London as a young woman and became a mental health counsellor. There she reconnected with a childhood friend, Griffin Williams. The two eventually married and moved to Hamilton, Canada, where Griff found work at the steel mills. Griff, as well as Vi's father and brothers, worked at the Cargo Fleet Steel Company in Middlesboro, and so the move to Hamilton was natural enough.
Meanwhile, Vi's brother Fred went from Cargo Fleet to Jessops Steel Company in Calcutta, India. He wrote fascinating letters back to the family during the four years he lived there, before he was tragically killed in an uprising at Jessops in 1949.
Her other sibling, Arthur, became an engineer, building paper mills all over the world. While Arthur, who was dyslexic, did not leave the legacy of letters Fred did, he did leave his considerable fortune to Vi when he died in the 1990s. Vi used Arthur's money to support art and culture in the Hamilton area. She was a generous donor to the Hamilton Poetry Centre, the Bach Elgar Choir, the Bruce Trail Association, the John Laing Singers, IAMAT, and many others.
But perhaps the most touching monument she left was to publish Fred's letters. They were published by West Meadow Press in 1996 under the title of Remember Me to Everybody: Letters from India, 1944 to 1949 by Frederick Gower Turnbull.
Vi died on February 3, 2012 and her ashes were scattered along the Bruce Trail in Ontario, Canada.
With thanks to Marc Castle.
Last reviewed and updated: September 18, 2019