Our story

Dorothy Gardiner established Gardiner’s Nursing Agency in 1968.  Now known as Gardiner’s Homecare, the business is owned by Dorothy’s grandson John-Joe Cottam.

Dorothy’s life

Dorothy GardinerDorothy was born in Wallasey, Cheshire.  She began training as a nurse in 1942 at Withington Hospital, Manchester.  Dorothy moved to Sonning, then Emmer Green after marrying Ivan (Gus) in 1946.  She worked as a midwife, district nurse and at Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Following the birth of her two children, John and Janet, Dorothy joined a nursing agency called the British Nursing Association (BNA) and soon took on an administrative role.  She resigned when the owners sold the business and set up Gardiner’s Nursing Agency.   Dorothy introduced immediate payment, insurance cover and a code of conduct.  This gave an enormous lift to the profile of the agency nurse.  Gardiner’s Nursing Agency thrived and was soon supplying staff to institutions and the private sector across the Home Counties.

In 1971, Dorothy persuaded the Royal College of Nursing to set up a forum for nursing agency administrators. She was elected chairman and stayed in the hot seat until 1983.  Dorothy was made an MBE the following year for services to nursing and ‘in particular an outstanding contribution to fostering good standards of care in the independent sector’.

Dorothy valued every Gardiner’s Nursing Agency client and every member of staff equally.  She strove to provide a professional, sensitive and caring service.  She questioned the trend away from personal caring to institutionalised procedures and was never prepared to compromise her principles for the sake of change.

Raising a family while working full-time was a very modern idea from the 1950s through to the 80s, but Dorothy was a trailblazer.  She always found time for family and friends, was extremely generous and was known for her witty and slightly wicked sense of humour.

Her energy, drive and work ethic carried over into her home life.  She and Gus built a stage, complete with footlights and floodlights, in their front room every year.  Grandchildren and their friends were invited to rehearse for a Christmas variety show, which led to many memorable evenings.

Dorothy passed away at The Old Vicarage Nursing Home in Moulsford in 2012.

Dorothy Gardiner obituary

Gus’s life

Ivan GardinerIvan Gardiner, better known as Gus, was born in Marple, Cheshire, on March 31, 1925.  He quickly showed that he had an aptitude for leadership and was a talented sportsman.   Gus was head boy at Macclesfield’s King’s School.  He was a force to contend with on the rugby field, captaining the team.   Gus was Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major of the school’s Officer Training Corps and was involved with training the Macclesfield Home Guard.

In 1943, Ivan Gardiner left school to volunteer for the war effort.  In 1944, from Officer Training School, Gus was enlisted into the Indian Army.  He commanded and trained the boys’ company at the Regimental Centre. Later he moved to the Jungle Training Division of the M & R Sikh Regiment where.  As a company instructor, he specialised in assault engineering and demolitions.  Gus joined the 1st Battalion as a signal officer and saw active service in Burma.

Gus was seriously wounded in Burma, resulting in the loss of his right hand.  He was finally discharged from the army in 1948.  Whilst convalescing, Gus had begun an agricultural degree at Reading University.  After completion, Gus joined the research staff at Reading, gathering data from farms throughout Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. His work took him as far as Botswana.

As you have read above Dorothy had been running Gardiner’s Nursing Agency and Gus started to undertake some of the administrative duties.  In 1975, Gus resigned from Reading University, where he had become a lecturer in agricultural economics, to take on full-time duties at Gardiner’s.  Gardiner’s Nursing Agency thrived.   Gus continued to be involved with the agency until as recently as 2010.

During the Seventies, Gus became chairman of the nursing and medical agencies section of FRES, now known as the Recruitment & Employment Confederation.  Gus was increasingly involved with national developments, including annually determining NHS fees for agency nurses throughout the country.  He was also pivotal in developing codes of conduct and inspections of nursing and care agencies.

Gus was passionate about helping people and was renowned for his generosity and caring manner.   He was a leading light for the Reading branch of the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association.   Apart from supporting veterans, he aided in the development of prosthesis, in particular the “Russian arm”.

He enjoyed Scottish dancing and loved spending time in the couple’s house in Spain but his greatest pride and joy came from his family, especially his wife Dorothy. In her last years, he devoted himself to caring for her.   His family and friends will remember him with great fondness, gratitude and enormous pride.

Gus passed away at The Old Vicarage Nursing Home in Moulsford in 2014.

Gus’s obituary