Born in 1927, she trained as a nurse at King’s College Hospital, London, and worked at Oxford’s Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, its maternity unit and the Churchill Hospital.
She went on to attend the training college of the Church Mission Society, and worked in Nigeria from 1961 to 1973, taking up her post as second matron of St Luke’s on her return to Britain.
She became heavily involved with nurse education there, and spoke at seminars and conferences on the care of the dying and their families, remaining involved with Sir Kenneth Calman at the Witness Seminar on Palliative Medicine, held by the History of Modern Biomedicine Research Group, as recently as 2012.
After retiring, she acted as a consultant in the setting up of a hospice in Guernsey and worked with bereavement groups in Sheffield and London. In 1991 she was awarded the MBE for her work on behalf of hospices.
Peter Hartland, chief executive of St Luke’s, credited Ms Cockburn and the organisation’s founder, Professor Eric Wilkes, as being central to the team on which the present-day hospice was built.