Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Community News - by Irene Smith of Maraylya

Hav­ing watched “Call The Mid­wives” on TV I thought you may like to read how I be­came one of them!! I was born and bred in Lon­don, hav­ing sur­vived the Blitz and ra­tioning which went on long af­ter war was over. Our school­ing had been badly in­ter­rupted with be­ing evac­u­ated be­cause of the air-raids.

We re­turned to Pin­ner and Har­row in Mid­dle­sex where I came to leave school at 15 years of age. I knew that I wanted to be­come a nurse but I was far to young to start my train­ing. I knew that I had to find a job and as a fam­ily we were reg­u­lar at­ten­dees at Hinge Road Con­gre­ga­tional Church in Har­row. One of the lead­ers at the Church worked at the M.O.F. (Min­istry of Food) sug­gested that I take a job in his of­fice, which I did. This meant trav­el­ling on the Un­der­ground from Har­row to Baker Street sta­tion to his of­fice which was lo­cated in what had been a very splen­did ho­tel op­po­site Sel­fridges. When the war was de­clared the Govern­ment com­man­deered most of the ho­tels in Lon­don. Dur­ing my “fill­ing in” time with the M.O.F. I was trans­ferred to an­other ho­tel to learn to use a comp­to­met­ric adding ma­chine. If my mem­ory serves me right this was the Carl­ton Ho­tel in the Hay­mar­ket. Years later they had turned it into a theatre where I saw “Phan­tom of the Opera”.

My week­ends were taken up with sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties with the boys – mostly cricket and ten­nis. I used to score for our Church Cricket Team, so where they went, I had to go. I was also en­cour­aged to do vol­un­tary work at our lo­cal hos­pi­tal in Har­row. This made me all the more de­ter­mined to make nurs­ing my ca­reer. I had read some­where that some hos­pi­tals were tak­ing stu­dent nurses at 17 years of age. So I be­gan to write and send off my ap­pli­ca­tions. In 1948 I was ac­cepted at EGH (Edge­ware Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal). I went for an in­ter­view with the Ma­tron, who signed me up for the next school. We were given an ap­point­ment to be mea­sured up for our uni­forms, also the date and time when we would start our SRN train­ing. When I got my SRN I had vi­sions of go­ing to Aus­tralia, New Zealand or Canada, on mak­ing en­quiries we found they all needed Mid­wives.

With my friend, Joyce, we both ap­plied to do our Mid­wifery Train­ing. We had a nasty shock when we dis­cov­ered we had to go back to Stu­dent Nurses pay, with no liv­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion. We had to find some­where to live near the hos­pi­tal, a bike ride away. Even­tu­ally we found a “bed­room” shar­ing bath­room toi­let with a fam­ily. Good job we were so busy at the hos­pi­tal, we got back to “the digs” so tired we just fell into bed. It didn’t end there. Joyce in­formed me that she could no longer find the money for her half of our ac­com­mo­da­tion.

I was in the Nurse’s sick bay with Me­niere’s Syn­drome (as it was called then) where I be­came friends with one of the Nurses, called “Pritch”, who helped to look af­ter me. Af­ter my re­cov­ery I re­mained friends with her. By this time my par­ents had moved to Corn­wall. “Pritch” was like a sec­ond mother to me. I woud go to see “Pritch” on my days off when she wasn’t work­ing. I told her what was hap­pen­ing. She dis­cussed it with her hus­band and they of­fered Joyce and I their spare bed­room as long as we didn’t mind sleep­ing to­gether.

In the UK to get your SCM (State Cer­ti­fied Mid­wife) it is in two parts. Your first part is in hos­pi­tal un­der su­per­vi­sion. The sec­ond part is with a District Mid­wife. I drew a short straw, the mid­wife I was al­lo­cated to was a “Miss” – no won­der!! It was the hardest part of my train­ing. With the help and un­der­stand­ing from “Pritch” I made it and what was more I got my SCM first time. Now the world was my oys­ter. I de­cided to go down to Corn­wall to be with the fam­ily again and get some spoil­ing from my mum. I never got Aus­tralia then, that came much later. Don’t for­get to con­trib­ute your mem­o­ries and also any old pho­to­graphs that you would like to see pub­lished in this mag­a­zine’s “AS WE WERE” sec­tion.

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