Blue Plaque unveiled for Great War medical pioneer

Pictured at the unveiling of an Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque in memory of local woman, Anne Acheson at Edenderry Presbyterian Church are from left, Richard Hanna, Ulster Scots Agency, Chris Spurr, Ulster History Circle, Mayor of ABC Council, Councillor Julie Flaherty, Rev John Faris, great nephew of AAnne Acheson, Mrs Heather Faris and Doug Beattie, MC, MLA. INPT41-226.
Pictured at the unveiling of an Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque in memory of local woman, Anne Acheson at Edenderry Presbyterian Church are from left, Richard Hanna, Ulster Scots Agency, Chris Spurr, Ulster History Circle, Mayor of ABC Council, Councillor Julie Flaherty, Rev John Faris, great nephew of AAnne Acheson, Mrs Heather Faris and Doug Beattie, MC, MLA. INPT41-226.

The Ulster History Circle has unveiled a Blue Plaque in memory of a Portadown sculptor who pioneered the use of a papier-mâché splint during World War I.

Anne Crawford Acheson (1882-1962) was a sculptor who pioneered the design.

She has now been remembered in her home town with the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at First Presbyterian Church, Bridge Street, Portadown.

The plaque was unveiled by her great-nephew Rev. John Glasgow Faris.

Anne Crawford Acheson was born in 1882 in Carrickblacker Avenue, Portadown.

She was the second of seven children of merchant, John Acheson and Harriett Glasgow. Anne was educated at the Alexander School, Portadown and at Victoria College in Belfast and from the Belfast School of Art, she won a scholarship to the Royal College in Kensington, London where from 1906–1910, she studied sculpture.

At the onset of the Great War, Anne joined the Surgical Requisites Association (SRA) based at Mulberry Walk in Chelsea.

Anne put her talents to good use which would change the way fractures were treated. With her technique in use to this day.

Anne C Acheson witnessed soldiers coming back from the Front with broken limbs held together with bits of wooden splints and a couple of bandages.

She suggested taking a plaster cast of the limb and when the cast had hardened, wrapping papier-mâché over it, and then slipping it over the broken limb. Later this prototype procedure was replaced by the use of Plaster of Paris which she used in sculpture, and this reduced the procedure and healing time whilst properly supporting the broken limb.

Throughout the war in military hospitals in Britain and Europe, the idea was adopted, and updated over the decades.

It is still in use today by the medical profession.

King George V established the British Empire Medal to recognise the war efforts of civilians and Anne Acheson was appointed CBE in 1919.

During the Second World War in 1939, Anne retrained as a precision engineer and draftswoman, so as to carry out voluntary work.

She also worked for the Red Cross.

As a sculptor, Anne achieved fame in the 1920s and 1930s by her sculptures of children and garden figures which had became very fashionable.

Models such as ‘Posy’, ‘The Imp’, ‘Water Baby’ to name a few, became famous, and this talented lady from Portadown was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Society of British Sculptors, before becoming the organisation’s first female Fellow.

Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Chris Spurr said, “Anne Acheson of Portadown has the distinction of being the first woman to become a full member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors, and her fame alone as an artist commends her for a blue plaque.

“However, she is to be further commended for her pioneering design work, especially towards developing the anatomically correct papier-mâché splint, which helped to heal the limbs of many servicemen injured in World War I.

“The Ulster History Circle is delighted to commemorate this distinguished sculptor with a blue plaque at the Church she attended, and the Circle would particularly like to thank the Ulster-Scots Agency for their financial support towards the plaque.”