Photo of Sarah Kirkman
Sarah was usually known as Evalyn
Email from Penelope Neech
"Evalyn was a remarkable and determined doctor who served alongside her missionary husband (Allen) in India for almost 30 years. She was tiny, kindly faced and green-fingered with a passion for genealogy. Evalyn, who had always wanted to be a doctor, was born in Exeter, California. She had a spiritual experience when she almost died at the age of 6. Her mother, a nurse, encouraged her to study medicine and she qualified during the depths of the depression at the University of California.
Determined to help where she was really needed, she 'badgered' the American Presbyterian Mission, even offering to work for nothing.
She was sent to an eight bed hospital in New Mexico and learned Spanish. After a year she became a home missionary doctor.
She was sent to Punjab in Northen India in 1937 and met Allen Neech, who became her husband in 1940, at the same language school. "Our ships passed in Port Said", she joked. Once in India, Evalyn was soon put in charge of a 100 bed hospital,expected to undertake surgery without the aid of antibiotics or x-rays. Her only surgical training had been to assist a senior surgeon, 600 miles away, for six weeks. "My first operation was to amputate a leg,which I had never seen done," she recalled. "So I had to read up about it the night before." She held many medical posts where her husbands duties took them round India, and in 27 years the couple lived in 24 houses. Evalyn's career had to move with Allen's, but she always found medical work to do and took charge of several 100 bed hospitals. Occasionally she accompanied Allen on missions, when they sometimes camped, and would set up a dispensing clinic under a mango tree. For sometime they lived at Benares where they welcomed many visitors to their home. Benares, the Holy City, now called Varanasi attracts thousands of visitors and pilgrims. The Queen and Prince Philip,and the Emperor of Ethiopia were some of those they were privileged to meet.
But there were many sacrifices to be made. Their three children, who were bi-lingual, had to travel three days and two nights on a train to boarding school. Evalyn and her family suffered serious illnesses and the heat was hard to bear. The milk had to be boiled several times a day to stop it going bad, and if they wanted chicken for Sunday lunch they had to tie it to the leg of a kitchen table the night before, and kill it just before cooking it. "We had to rely completely on God. We had no guarantees for anything. We were never guaranteed salaries," she said."But we never went without".
Evalyn left India in 1963. After qualifying to practice in Britain,she spent almost 15 years as a part time community health doctor among the Indian and Pakistani community in Southall,London.
Meanwhile her husband Allen was asked to become General Secretary of The Bible Churchmans Missionary Society which took him round the world. When they retired they moved back to Allen's East Anglian roots in Oulton Broad, near Lowestoft ,England, where Allen could still be heard to preach most Sundays,and occasionally Evalyn could be seen in the pulpit ,well into her eighties. Evalyn died on the fourteenth of February 2006, just seven weeks before her 96th birthday."
Last Updated : 07-Jun-17