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Florence Nightingale Connection

The Love Story of Florence Nightingale and Rev. John Smithurst

(Originally published in the Toronto Sunday World, Sunday, October, 16, 1921)

Elora has a tradition, beautiful and sad. One of most beloved women of all history is its heroine. A brief account of her is contained in a letter to a young girl: "Did I ever tell you the story of another girl who wanted to be trained as a nurse? This young lady was born in Florence, Italy, but her father owned estates at Embley Park in Hampshire, and at Lea Hurst, in Derbyshire, England. Her cousin, a young man employed by a merchant in London, fell in love with her. To break off this attachment, her parents took her from home, and for several years, she traveled on the Continent. The young lady wanted to be a nurse, and at all the cities they visited, she learned what she could of nursing as it was then, and of hospital organization."

After giving the name of the disappointed lover, the Reverend John Smithurst, late of Elora, Ontario, Canada, the letter goes on to say: "Now you will want to know who she was. When the very urgent need came for nurses during the Crimean War, the only one in England at the time who had studied hospital work, and know how it should be organized, was this young lady who became the heroine of the British Army - Florence Nightingale."

The letter represents an accepted view of a romance, which has almost been forgotten. It was written to an Elora girl more than 47 years ago.  » Read the whole the story

Preacher Carried a Torch For Florence - by Vivienne Smith

(Originally published in the Derby Evening Telegraph, Tuesday, September 28, 2004)

When Florence Nightingale left England for the Crimea with her band of nurses in October 1854, she sailed into the history books. Not only did she become a heroine to the British troops but also to people around the world.

In a little place called Elora, west of Toronto in Canada, one man followed her career with particular interest. He was John Smithurst, the parish priest. And according to local legend, he had once been engaged to the Lady with the Lamp. The claim was not as incredible as it might first seem. For the clergyman originally hailed from the village of Lea, not far from the Nightingale family home of Lea Hurst. He was also one of Florence's many cousins, and had visited her in his youth. The son of William and Christiana Smithurst, John was born in Lea on September 9, 1807. He was baptised at nearby Dethick Church a month later.

As a young man, he worked for the company founded by Sir Richard Arkwright, founder of Cromford's famous cotton mill. Then, at the age of 28, so the story goes, John fell in love with his 16-year-old cousin Florence. Unfortunately, his hopes of marriage were quickly dashed when her parents voiced their disapproval of the match. Unable to be together, the cousins are said to have made a solemn promise to devote their lives to the service of others.

It is certainly what they both did.  » Read the whole story