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Joan McAlees - TLM Hero

A woman in glasses with white hair smiles at the camera from a sofa

Joan McAlees was a retired nurse and church organist from Northern Ireland. As a child, she was evacuated to Ballynahinch following the Belfast Blitz, and was fascinated by the overseas missions she heard about at the Methodist Church Sunday School. After returning to Belfast to complete her nursery, midwifery and tropical diseases training, she was accepted into the Methodist Missionary Society.

Joan’s first placement was in Madras, India, in 1956, where she came across the work of The Leprosy Mission and accompanied the renowned leprosy surgeon Dr Paul Brand on his ward rounds. Soon after that, Joan began work at Nagari Hospital, which had a small but very busy clinic for persons affected by leprosy, which was outside. Joan made a simple and bold decision: “As Nursing Superintendent I was able to change its location and moved the clinic inside; this helped to challenge stigma and show acceptance for those with leprosy.” It was one of many innovations Joan and her team introduced.

For health reasons, the second half of Joan’s career was back in Belfast – including as Matron of the Moyle Hospital in Larne. She retired in 1990 and was a member of Craigyhill Methodist Church, Larne, where she was organist, for 28 years. Since 2003, Joan was the link person for The Leprosy Mission for the Methodist Circuit in Larne – she raised over £20,000 through generous donations.

Joan passed away peacefully in October 2023. She is fondly remembered by the TLM Northern Ireland team and all those she served in India.