THE work of our NHS nurses and their struggles with the cost of living is a topic which is cropping up a lot at the moment.

And when we think of nurses one woman always instantly comes to mind- the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale.

Miss Nightingale was - and continues to be- a source of inspiration for women across the globe but one Southend nurse knew her as more than just a figure head to admire- she looked upon her as a great friend.

Her name was Eliza Ellen Hutchinson and she died just six weeks after the ‘The Heroine of the Crimea’ in September 1910.

Eliza was also a nurse and in the mid nineteenth century she was sent to work at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was there she met and struck up a friendship with Florence.

Born at Cheetham Hill, near Manchester in 1813, Eliza’s father had been steward to a large landowner in the district and she marred at quite a young age.

Not long into the marriage her husband suddenly left her and their three children one day. She never saw him again.

It was then that she took up nursing and became a member of the nursing staff at St Thomas’ Hospital.

She was only there a brief period however and undertook ‘fever and general nursing’ cases, but during the appointment a strong attachment was formed between Eliza and Florence.

Clearly it was a strong attachment indeed as when Eliza died at the age of 97 while living in a small tenement in Marine Parade, Southend, near to the Army and Navy Hotel, it is said her last words were of her late friend who had died just a few weeks earlier : “I soon shall be with her,” she is said to have uttered as she breathed her last.

After her time as St Thomas’s Eliza had taken up work as a nurse with the East London Nursing Association where she worked amongst the poor and needy of the east end.

She then went to become a private nurse in Wales. For a while she he made her home with her daughter in London before coming to Southend where she was said to be a popular figure.

When Eliza died it made the local and London news and her obituaries described how she was known for talking for hours about the late Florence Nightingale and would recount the famous nurse’s “kind and nice ways and the aspirations she always had.”

The Southend Standard and Essex Weekly Advertiser reported how when Florence Nightingale died at first Eliza’s daughter had withheld the news from her mother for fear of her becoming too distraught.

“At first her daughter hid the death of Florence to her mother but when she was told she burst into floods of tears and sobbed out her heart’s desire “oh if i could only send her just one little flower to her funeral,’ described the Advertiser.

“The death of Florence had a marked effect on and seemed to hasten her end.”

Eliza’s nursing career in her own right seemed to have caught the attention of some notable people. She had nursed the sick until she was 80-years-old and had worked with many noted families of the day.

After reading about Eliza’s death in a London newspaper the famous actress of the time, Florence Smithson, came forward to pay for a ‘worthy funeral’ for the veteran nurse, which was held at the borough cemetery in Sutton Road, Southend.

Smithson was an actress and singer celebrated in Edwardian musical comedy. She had also been an opera singer and was known for the purity of her soprano singing voice.

Her reasons for paying for the funeral are not known but she was clearly touched by the story of Eliza and her friendship with Florence Nightingale.

Eliza’s faithful pet dog Daisy say by his mistresses coffin for days and would not leave its side until the moment she was buried.