He­bridean Hero­ines

The Oban Times - - News -

IS­LAND nurses are the sub­ject of a new book launch­ing next week in Lewis. He­bridean Hero­ines – Twen­ti­eth

Cen­tury Queen’s Nurses by Cather­ine Mor­ri­son, a dis­trict nurse in Bern­era, Isle of Lewis, is billed as ‘a fascinating in­sight into the lives of women from the Western Isles of Scot­land who worked as dis­trict nurses in the mid-20th cen­tury.

‘Leav­ing be­hind their close-knit is­land com­mu­ni­ties, these in­trepid women un­der­took the long jour­ney by sea and rail to the main­land of Scot­land to train as nurses and mid­wives,’ the book’s pub­lisher, the Is­lands Book Trust said.

‘The ma­jor­ity car­ried out Queen’s dis­trict nurse train­ing and main­tained that it ‘pre­pared them to go to the desert to work’ if nec­es­sary. Most of them even­tu­ally re­turned to the is­lands, to work in a role that re­quired strength of body and mind.

Dis­trict nurses worked long hours and were al­ways avail­able when called, re­gard­less of hour, weather con­di­tions or re­mote­ness. In the book, they de­scribe in their own words their ev­ery­day lives, giv­ing an in­sight into the chal­lenges they faced and re­veal­ing the re­silience and strength of char­ac­ter re­quired to do the job.

‘These women were true He­bridean hero­ines,’ the trust con­tin­ued, ‘reg­u­larly go­ing be­yond the call of duty with­out thought for their own com­fort, yet main­tain­ing that ‘I was only do­ing my job, which I loved’. These sto­ries are their legacy.’

The Queen’s Nurs­ing In­sti­tute Scot­land (QNIS), founded in 1889, prided it­self on train­ing the best dis­trict nurses in the world, tak­ing young women who had al­ready ex­pe­ri­enced the rigours of Bri­tain’s nurse train­ing schools and putting them through a tough and chal­leng­ing pro­gramme of fur­ther prepa­ra­tion which both ex­tended their clin­i­cal skills and in­stilled a sense of re­source­ful­ness and in­ven­tive­ness.

Cather­ine Mor­ri­son said: ‘While work­ing as a dis­trict nurse I en­coun­tered many pa­tients who had been dis­trict nurses them­selves and had sto­ries to re­late about their life and work, which I felt was part of the unique his­tory of the Outer He­brides and nurs­ing. Then when I re­tired I be­came a Queen’s Nurse Vis­i­tor (vis­it­ing Queen’s Nurses who are more than 80 years old) and again was in con­tact with women whose sto­ries about their work­ing lives in­spired me. I be­gan to in­ter­view them and this book is the re­sult.’

The fore­word was writ­ten by Clare Ca­ble, chief ex­ec­u­tive and Nurse Di­rec­tor of QNIS, who writes: ‘Con­tem­po­rary com­mu­nity nurses work in a rapidly chang­ing world which their fore­bears would hardly recog­nise – but there is so much to in­spire them in the re­mark­able courage, ded­i­ca­tion and self- sac­ri­fice demon­strated by their Queen’s Nurse fore­bears in the Outer He­brides. Thanks to Cather­ine Mor­ri­son, their unique tes­ti­monies have been recorded and pre­served.’

Pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Hal­lett, di­rec­tor of the UK Cen­tre for the His­tory of Nurs­ing at Manch­ester Univer­sity, wrote in the in­tro­duc­tion: ‘ What was so im­pres­sive about the Queen’s Nurses of the Outer He­brides was their ca­pac­ity not only to bring fun­da­men­tal nurs­ing skill to their pa­tients but also to demon­strate the abil­ity to im­pro­vise, to push the bound­aries of their prac­tice when needed, and to work closely with the com­mu­ni­ties they served, win­ning the re­spect and af­fec­tion of all.

‘Now that this book is bring­ing their poignant and mov­ing sto­ries to a wide read­er­ship, I hope their per­sonal tes­ti­mony may help in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion of nurses to un­der­stand the true po­ten­tial of their work – the ways in which ex­pert nurs­ing prac­tice, cou­pled with com­mit­ment and courage, can trans­form peo­ple’s lives.’

He­bridean Hero­ines by Chris­tine M Mor­ri­son will be launched on Fri­day Fe­bru­ary 17, at the Store­house, Lews Cas­tle, Isle of Lewis, at 7pm.

Clock­wise from above: A nurse and friend on her mo­tor­cy­cle; Bella John­stone, copy­right Dr Ken­neth Robert­son; A He­bridean Queen’s nurse in the 1930s; Catriona MacAskill – front cover im­age, copy­right De­nis Straughan.

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