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Dally [née Mullins], Ann Gwendolen (1926–2007), doctor and medical historian, was born on 29 March 1926 in a nursing home at 27 Welbeck Street, Marylebone, London, the first of the three children of , reforming magistrate and author, and his wife Elizabeth Gwendolen (Gwen) Brandt (1904–1997), craftswoman. Her mother belonged to a wealthy German-Russian banking family; her father was the son of the prominent Victorian sculptor, Edwin Roscoe Mullins. Aged two, Ann moved with her parents from 24 Eldon Road, Kensington, to Summerdale, Burgh Heath Road, Epsom.

A voracious reader from the age of four, Ann Mullins attended small progressive schools, first the ‘enlightened but not freakish’ Sherwood House near her home, then Wychwood School in Oxford as a boarder because, according to her father's diary, the eleven-year-old Ann was completely unmanageable, not to mention ‘rude’, ‘detached’, and ‘stubborn’. She had defeated the child psychiatrist Emanuel Miller by refusing to say a word at their twice-weekly sessions. She flourished at Wychwood, benefiting from its wartime collaboration with the academically rigorous Oxford high school, although her ‘disdain for authority or any form of control’ remained noteworthy. Expelled on her sixteenth birthday, she continued at the high school and won an open exhibition to Somerville College, Oxford, the following year.

In her first term at school Ann Mullins was befriended by a classmate's mother, Dorothea Nasmyth, a doctor who had served in the Mediterranean during the First World War and who was an important influence on Ann's life. After taking a second-class degree in modern history in 1946 Ann worked for the War Office, giving history lectures to British troops in Germany and Austria, before starting medical training at St Thomas's Hospital in 1947 (the first year women were admitted). On 1 April 1950 she married Peter John Dally (1923–2005), a fellow medical student, with whom she rapidly produced six children, two before she graduated MB BS in 1953. From 1955 the family lived in Dulwich, Peter training in psychiatry, the children and their nanny (and her child) staying frequently with Ann's parents and sister in Graffham, Sussex. (In 1963 Ann's mother bought them a farmhouse in the village, which eased the congestion.)

With the move to Dulwich, Ann Dally had intended to work part-time until her children were in school, but later that year Peter contracted polio and became almost completely paralysed for several months, forcing her to focus on her career. She worked as a research registrar in general medicine and acquired a diploma in obstetrics before finally leaving hospital jobs in 1959. Over the next decade she had a small general practice, worked in other people's practices, conducted baby clinics, worked for the Family Planning Association, and was an active medical journalist and broadcaster. From 1960, as Ann Mullins, she produced regular columns and articles for the Sunday Telegraph, Evening News, and Family Doctor that related to her interests in mothers, children, and psychological medicine, with titles like ‘What is normal?’ and ‘The child who won't conform’. A steady stream of books followed, starting with An Intelligent Person's Guide to Modern Medicine (1966), A Child is Born (1966), and a biography of Cicely Williams (1968), which entailed a research trip in 1962 to Beirut, where Williams was teaching. She also recorded and transcribed in the early 1960s a series of interviews with Sylvia Payne about the early history of the psychoanalytical movement. Later Ann Dally became one of the first radio psychiatrists, on a pioneering Radio London programme presented by Robbie Vincent.

In 1968 Ann and Peter Dally bought 13 Devonshire Place, a large house in the heart of medical London, where Peter, by now a consultant psychiatrist at Westminster Hospital, had a thriving private practice. Their intention was that Ann would assist with Peter's patients while building a practice of her own, and that a great deal of commuting time would be saved. Ann occupied one consulting room, Peter another, two more were rented out, the receptionists worked at desks in the enormous hallways, and the family lived on the top three floors, Peter occupying the mews flat above the garage. Their marriage was over, but Ann and Peter did not divorce until 1969, seeing no need to upset Ann's father (founder of the Marriage Guidance Council) while he lived. The two Dallys shared a medical practice until they retired, and remained intellectual soulmates all their lives. On 29 June 1979 Ann Dally married Philip Wellsted Egerton (b. 1920), a management consultant.

By the 1980s Ann Dally was seeing a large number of opiate addicts (often referred to her by other doctors), whom she viewed with a sympathy that was at odds with the increasingly punitive emphasis on criminalization and rapid withdrawal favoured by the medical and political establishments. She argued instead that such people could, by means of maintenance programmes (and not being forced to seek drugs on the black market, often at great risk to themselves), be enabled to hold down jobs, look after their families, and generally lead normal lives; indeed, she went further, to argue that prohibition was the real problem, not the opiates themselves. She was twice found guilty of professional misconduct by the General Medical Council, in 1983 and 1987, for allegedly issuing prescriptions for controlled drugs in an irresponsible manner, though she was not struck off, and restrictions on her right to prescribe drugs were removed in 1988. She and her supporters felt that she was being victimized by the medical establishment, not so much because of her work with addicts but because she spoke out about the problems she encountered. ‘Had I kept silent and simply treated patients, as other doctors did, I might never have got into trouble’, she wrote later in her autobiography, A Doctor's Story (1990).

Ann Dally spent much of her later life working on medical history, based at the Wellcome Institute in London. Her history of gynaecology, Women under the Knife, was published in 1991. When the house on Devonshire Place was sold in 1994 she and her husband Philip moved to a flat on Wimpole Street, but thereafter lived mainly at Wiblings Farm in Graffham, where Ann wrote books and welcomed grandchildren until she suffered a stroke, dying shortly after, on 23 March 2007. She was survived by her husband Philip, and by two sons and two daughters from her first marriage, two sons having predeceased her. Her friend Margaret Drabble admitted to using Ann's house on Devonshire Place in her novel The Radiant Way (1987), but further parallels can be discerned between its protagonist (a Harley Street child psychiatrist raising a large family above the shop) and Ann Dally.

Catherine Crawford


A. Dally, A doctor's story (1990) · E. Dally, Dying twice: a sister's tale (2000) · The Independent (30 March 2007); (5 April 2007) · The Times (4 April 2007); (18 April 2007) · The Guardian (23 May 2007); (1 June 2007); (5 June 2007) · The Lancet, 370/9582 (14 July 2007), 128 · A. Mold, Heroin: the treatment of addiction in twentieth-century Britain (2008) · Dally papers, Wellcome L., PP/DAL · personal knowledge (2011) · private information (2011) · b. cert. · m. certs.


Wellcome L., PP/DAL  



BFINA, documentary footage




BL NSA, documentary recordings


obituary photographs · photograph, repro. in www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(07)61074-5/fulltext · photographs, Wellcome L., PP/DAL/A/4, 5; B/1/2/5

Wealth at death  

£787,812: probate, 21 Aug 2007, CGPLA Eng. & Wales