A WOMAN who helped many of Ilkley's residents come into the world has picked up an accolade from the Guyanese Government.

Daphne Steele, of Grange Close, was awarded a certificate from the Guyanese High Commission, in London, in recognition of her professional success.

Miss Steele made history when she was appointed as matron of the former St Winifred's Maternity Home, on Wells Road, Ilkley, in 1964.

She said: "I was the first black person in this country to be appointed a matron of any NHS hospital, so that caused quite a stir.

"I got about 350 letters from around Britain and around the world. It did something for race relations and it also did something for other blacks because if one can do it we all can do it."

Miss Steele felt a great affinity with Ilkley and has never left the town, receiving another award from Ilkley Parish Council, last year for her commitment to community work.

She said: "I enjoyed working at St Winifred's. It was a happy place. I am already seeing the children of the children I delivered. It's lovely. If you live and work in the same town there are advantages."

Miss Steele came to England from Guyana, in the 1950s, as the British Government urged the residents of its former colonies to join its workforce.

Miss Steele said: "In the 1950s everybody was leaving. Folks were being encouraged to come and train. It was shortly after the war and the British people were tired of the war and the women had done their bit."

Miss Steele, a member of Ilkley's Soroptimists and of Christchurch, trained as a nurse and then a midwife, at St James' Hospital, in London, serving the newly-created NHS.

Like many of her contemporaries, Miss Steele said she initially faced opposition and prejudice in her new home.

She said: "We had always looked at Britain as the mother country. We were British subjects.

"It was not easy when we came because a lot of the indigenous people did not feel that way.

"If you were looking for accommodation you saw signs saying, 'no blacks, no Irish, no dogs'.

"But despite that set-up, you buckled down because you came to do something and you did your job."

But following stints at hospitals around the country and in America, Miss Steele eventually came to Ilkley, and proved all boundaries could be overcome.

Miss Steele said she was delighted to receive her certificate, which was presented to her at a special ceremony, in London.

She said: "Most professionals when they go about doing their jobs are not thinking, 'I'm going to be rewarded at the end of it'.

"I was doing a job I loved. I wasn't in nursing by accident. Then after so many years your Government recognises you. It's smashing."