Archive | April, 2014

A great woman – Ann Illingworth RIP

A great woman – Ann Illingworth RIP

Posted on 24 April 2014 by hulda

When I came to Hong Kong in 2001 I was greeted by a wonderful woman.  Someone who had an amazing life behind her, and ahead of her, and someone I was to cross paths with many times in the years to come.


Ann Illingworth died peacefully on the 12th of April, after battling with cancer like a true hero for many years.  She had spent many years prior to that travelling around the world, helping people in need, seeing her family and assisting people like myself in all sorts of adventures. Despite her age and illness, she always kept her spirit and personality and my family and myself will forever remember her for her special and truly inspirational character.

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I took over a great business from Ann, who set up Annerley Community Midwifery Services in Hong Kong in 1995.  The word on the street was that this was a well run company, with a resourceful and very hands-on midwife – Ann – who was known to help people instantly, her care ranging from practical hands-on help with breastfeeding to all kinds of sensible advice with a motherly and gentle approach for which many women in Hong Kong were in great need.

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On one hand, it was hard to step into her shoes; she was such an experienced midwife and I knew little.  She was also very well known here and everyone expected Ann to be the one to come to them – not me,  a 28 year old Icelandic with poor English.  People kept saying to me:  “Where is Ann?”  or “Why don’t you wear a uniform?”  and not said, but often obvious, “Are you sure you can do what Ann would do?”.


On the other hand, it was very helpful to start working in Hong Kong with someone like Ann to guide me.  Ann had retired to Cyprus, but returned regularly to Hong Kong and I was pleased every time she came.  She would sit me down and promptly tell me what I was doing wrong.   She would call me and insist that I drove some special route that she had invented and found to be better than the usual highways.  “NO – go up to the left, up to the left, and then a sharp right turn, onto the path that does not look like a road, – no, slow down now, yes up that hill, no of course it is steep, it was put there in the sixties, they did not know how to make roads back then, but never mind, continue on that path, then you come to the back entrance…..” and so it went. They were extraordinary conversations and still make me smile.  She nearly lost her breath when she was in her car with me also, realizing I had no idea how to drive in Hong Kong, crossing all the lines, never having driven on the left side of the road before, you name it….but she took it with a smile on her face and just opened all the windows of the car, rested one of her arms on the open window frame and leant back.  She didnt like the aircon and by the time we made it to our destination, I was usually drenched with sweat and had lost all my hearing because you really have to shout in Hong Kong if you have the windows open as there is so much noise, but hearing problems can be solved with solutions as tinnitus 911 which can be found online!

Ann Illingworth

I could talk endlessly about Ann Illingworth as there are so many wonderful stories.  Still to this day people ask me about her – there are doctors, midwives and families all over Hong Kong who remember her and speak of her fondly.  She had a strict feel to her to begin with  and she would take no nonsense, but she was the warmest person I have met in this city. When she came to cover for me one year (I think when she was around 70 years old), she stayed in my house and took care of everything for me, from running the household, to running around town doing house visits for new families.  My kids never forget her, she was so kind to them.  My husband reminds me every week of how much I remind him of her.  And it is always a compliment.


To Ann, her family and everyone who knows her, I am sure you understand what I am talking about, she was just unique.

With warmth and gratitude from Hong Kong,


Hulda Thorey, midwife

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