Margaret (Megan) Browne
Lecturer PSW, 1948, Acting Director of School, 1966-1968
Margaret (Megan) Browne was born in London in 1911. She graduated with an Honours degree in Psychology, with subsidiary Sociology, at the University of London, followed by a Certificate in Mental Health at the London School of Economics. She worked with evacuated children in Berkshire prior to taking up her Edinburgh post on 1st October 1948 - she became a lecturer on the psychiatric social work (PSW) course, filling a vacancy left by F.E. (Stella) Waldron.
Megan was highly committed to the involvement of the university in civic (and government) life. She encouraged her staff to engage in practice and herself served on the Guild of Service’s Executive committee and on the Scottish Probation Advisory and Training Council with Nigel Walker. She gave advice to the Kilbrandon Committee; the Department of Social Study is listed as one of the organisations that gave written evidence to the committee. Following publication of its report in 1964, she was appointed, along with Richard Titmuss and Kay Carmichael, to advise the Secretary of State on the fundamental reorganisation of social work in Scotland. The outcome was the 1966 White Paper, Social Work and the Community, followed by the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, which brought together the different social work functions into new local authority departments of social work. The Act also established the Children’s Hearing System.
Megan was acting head of the school for two years, from 1966 to 1968, at which point John Spencer took over; he also took over Megan's leadership role on the Working Party that made recommendations for putting the SW (S) Act into practice. Megan remained on staff until she retired in 1973.
Megan believed that it was vital for our understanding of human growth and development that we integrate the work of Ronald Fairbairn with that of John Bowlby (see www.sutherlandtrust.org.uk). W.R.D. Fairbairn (1889-1964) argued that child psychiatry needed to be located in the context of family and other social relationships rather than viewing the individual as an isolated subject of analysis (see http://libraryblogs.is.ed.ac.uk/fairbairn/about-w-r-d-fairbairn). Megan herself argued that we should aim for a ‘loving world’ in which every child is able to reach their potential (see Obituary).
In 1970, she became co-founder (along with Dr Jock D. Sutherland and others) of the Scottish Institute of Human Relations (SIHR), ‘which, as her obituary states, ‘exists to make psychodynamic insights more widely available to the caring professions and others in Scotland’. Megan, working in a voluntary capacity, managed the institute until 1978 when Alan Harrow was appointed Director, helped by her longstanding friend and companion, Sheila Oppenheim, who died in 1989. She also with others, established the Sutherland Trust, launched at the Royal College of Physicians. This was originally formed in association with SIHR as ‘The Social Workers and Allied Professionals Trust Fund’, but changed its name to The Sutherland Trust, in honour of Jock Sutherland’s work in Scotland. The Trust later launched as an Independent Charity in its own right in October 1993.
Megan died in 1991 in her 80th year.
Sources: Obituary, the Scotsman, by Drummond Hunter; Sutherland Trust website; and University of Edinburgh, Department of Social Study & Training, Report for Session 1947/48, p. 7. Reference code - EUA IN1/ACU/S2 (Acc.2011/002)