A CUMNOCK woman was part of a group of dedicated medical professionals who saved thousands of lives in World War I.

Agnes Kerr Earl, who was born on March 31, 1886 in the Townhead area, went on to join the Scottish Women’s Hospitals (SWH) for Foreign Service.

Appropriately, Agnes’ story and that of her colleagues has been commemorated in a play which will be staged at Dumfries House on November 25.

Called Elsie Inglis - The woman who wouldn’t sit still, it recalls how almost 1,500 SWH woman placed their own lives at risk to save others.

During WWI, they worked in France, Serbia, Russia, Romania and Greece. Conditions for the women were often atrocious.

The women’s hospitals were shelled and bombed and evacuation became a common occurrence.

Typhus was a major cause of death amongst soldiers, and four of the medical staff fatally succumbed to this. Hospitals and staff accommodation were often in tented villages, very cold in winter and too hot in the summer.

Aged 30, Agnes Kerr Earl joined the SWH as a nurse, and in December 1916 set sail from Southampton to Salonica in Greece, a difficult voyage, always at risk of attack by enemy submarines, planes or giant Zeppelin airships.

There were 60 women on board, from across the UK, who would have to deal with all the horrors of war.

It was not just treating wounds from the battlefield but malaria, pneumonia, and typhus. One day when dressing a gangrenous limb, Agnes got a scratch, and within two days was dead from septic pneumonia. She was buried in Serbia, where she had worked for 15 months, while her death is recorded in the family grave in Cumnock’s Old Cemetery.

Elsie Inglis was a physician, surgeon, humanitarian, medical pioneer, suffragist and founder of SWH during World War I.

In 1914, she approached the War Office with an offer to provide a unique all-medical service women for the war front.

She was rejected and told ‘My good lady go home and sit still’. Undaunted, she approached the other Allied nations, who welcomed her suggestion.

Dundonald based playwright Dave Dewar has written and directed the show, which also features the character of Elsie Inglis, who founded the SWH.

It will be performed in the Tapestry Room at Dumfries House on the afternoon of November 25 as well as in Glasgow and Edinburgh. For tickets call 01563 852067.