Rayners Lane Baptist Church was built in 1935 in memory of Janet Ireland Hoare. Below is an excerpt from an article in Harrow Observer dated Thursday 31 May 2001:
Janet Ireland Hoare
Don Walter traces the short life of a minister’s daughter whose medical missionary work in India inspired a South Harrow congregation.
The Alabaster Box, written by Dr T B Adam, a member of Harrow Baptist Church and with a foreword by the then well-known writer Sydney Walton, tells the moving story of Janet Ireland Hoare.
In every way Janet was Baptist born, her mother’s father being president of the Scottish Baptist Union and her own father minister of Harrow Baptist Church (1901-1919) and later (1920-1932) of South Harrow Baptist Church. Sent locally to St Margaret’s School, Janet proved a natural scholar who, after further years as a pupil at the famous girls’ school Roedean, had all the qualifications to embark on a career in medicine. With what now seem amazing prescience, however, she appears to have worried about the physical demands of such a career. To her diary she confided that she was not sure if she were strong enough, adding: “If I work a bit harder than usual, I get so headachy, tired and heavy.”
Nevertheless, by 1928 she had not only graduated in medicine from London University, she had also acquired a gold medal in gynaecology.
As a leading light of the Student’ Christian Movement, Janet next set her sights on medical missionary work overseas and applied to the Baptist Missionary Society for a post in India. Much additional work was now demanded of her but she still found time to help establish a girl’s auxiliary at her father’s South Harrow Church. This, too, was the setting for a farewell service at which she was presented with a set of surgical instruments subscribed by the congregation.
Doctor Janet’s Passage To India
Though it may be hard for us to believe today, 70 years ago a journey to India was a much greater undertaking than a fast flight to Delhi so it was no surprise that a vast number of her friends turned up at Euston Station to see her off – so many friends, in fact, that she felt like “Mary Pickford or some other famous person”. In the event, it took her the best part of a month to reach her destination, a women’s hospital at Palwal, some 40 miles south of Delhi.
Her welcome, however, amply compensated for the travails of travel. As the book records: “The arrival of the new doctor was made a great occasion. A procession of Indians, surgeons and nurses greeted her, placed a garland of flowers around her and escorted her to her bungalow.”
Palwal itself was a smallish town but it was sited at the heart of a district about the size of Essex with a population of approximately four million. So, from the start, Janet was stretched, assisting at operations, attending the town dispensary and visiting (on horseback) patients too sick to travel. In addition at 7am each day, she devoted some hours to language study.
Despite the hard work she was still able to maintain her interests in matters spiritual and was delighted to attend the opening of a little church in a village some eight miles away. In a letter she commented: “The whole thing cost about £6. It would be nice if we could get a church for that in South Harrow.”
In yet another letter she enthused about the Palwal Hospital, describing it as “Just the type of mission hospital I was longing for. I do hope I shall be able to settle here permanently.”
The End of Janet’s Journey
But in the cruelest fashion, her hopes were soon to be dashed. On April 4, little more than two months after her arrival, Janet complained of a headache but attributed it to eye strain from the Urdu script she was studying (she was obliged to wear spectacles for reading). As her temperature began to rise it was thought she had succumbed to influenza. In fact, she had developed a virulent lung infection and, within days, she lapsed into unconsciousness.
Janet died soon afterwards, still in her twenties, still in missionary terms a “bachcha” (beginner). Yet her death was to prove a beginning in a very different sense.
Inspired by her example, Baptists back home in Harrow redoubled their efforts to found a Baptist Church in Rayners Lane and May 1935 saw the laying of the foundation stone of the present church in Imperial Drive. As a plaque on the wall still proudly proclaims, it is dedicated to the undying memory of Janet Ireland Hoare.