Two daughters make the Liggins proud

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Daughters of two prominent Liggins Institute figures both graduated from the University of Auckland last month.

Eleanor Bloomfield, whose father Frank is the Institute director and a neonatologist at National Women’s Health, graduated with a first class Masters in English.

Her thesis was on the medieval mystery plays that were once performed in the streets of York, England, a topic she wryly admits seems obscure in New Zealand.

Jackie Liggins, whose late father Sir Graham (Mont) Liggins was a scientific giant and the Institute’s namesake, graduated with a PhD in Psychiatry wearing the same gown and hood that her father wore back in 1970, when he became the first graduate ever to receive a degree from the University of Auckland’s just-established School of Medicine.
Medieval Plays


Frank and Eleanor Bloomfield-Liggins

Eleanor, 24, learnt Middle English in order to read the medieval plays, a collection of short linked pageants which together tell the Biblical story of salvation history, from Creation to the Last Judgement.

The plays were performed on the streets of York from at least the late 14th century through to the mid-16th, when they were heavily censured under the Reformation and eventually died out.

“I like the rhythm and alliteration of Middle English. Once you get the hang of that, it is surprisingly easy to understand,” she said.

Her thesis examined the performance of piety in medieval York, focusing on the relationship between the mystery plays and the Mass, the most important ritual of medieval Catholicism. Her research analysed how different areas of the city – the cathedral, the smaller parish churches, and the city streets – functioned as focal points for the medieval display of devotion.

Mental Health


Jackie Liggins

Jackie, 57, has been working as a psychiatrist for 20 years. Before that, she was a GP and worked a while in obstetrics.

Her PhD questioned how well the current structures of acute mental health units and similar facilities support healing and recovery in mental health care.

She wove her own story of mental illness and recovery through the thesis.

The most powerful places for healing emerged as ‘places offering both a safe haven and support for the hard work of exploration of self that is integral to recovery.’

“Healing is not just about taking medication; it takes work and time,” she said.

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