CARRY ON MATRONS
Inspirational figure’s influence still felt today
She was one of the most remarkable women in the 70-year history of the National Health Service.
And now the life of formidable NHS matron Olive Hulme is being celebrated after a treasure trove of memorabilia was uncovered by her family.
Photos and records from Olive Hulme’s trailblazing career have been handed over to the NHS for safekeeping.
They show how Olive went from a trainee to one of the most powerful nurses in Scotland, helping to oversee the building of the new Yorkhill Hospital for Children.
It was her work during the huge task of moving hospital that helped earn Olive an MBE, and become one of the most admired women in the NHS.
And although she died only last year at the age of 95, more than 35 years since retiring, her funeral was packed with former colleagues and successors.
“We had my aunt’s funeral last year,” said Olive’s niece Barbara Currie. “When she retired she set up the Yorkhill Nurse’s League in 1983, a social organisation for nurses.
“A lot of the nurses came to the funeral with their league badges on – they seemed to think she was wonderful.
“My aunt was a firm person that people would look up to, but at the same time no one would cross her.
“She was kind and caring and loved being around children. “But at the same time she was a formidable lady and a typical matron who had the rules and stuck by them.
“She would tell the doctors and consultants what to do. To think back to the 1970s – a woman telling these powerful men what to do. It would have been quite amazing to see.”
Olive trained at Yorkhill in the 1940s, and was involved in treating casualties from the D-day landings. Glasgow was gripped with poverty, and she dealt with children facing associated conditions like rickets and chest infections. She also treated children injured in fires caused by candle decorations on Christmas trees.
After spells in London and Edinburgh, she eventually became chief matron for Yorkhill, Scotland’s biggest children’s hospital.
According to her niece, Olive – or Miss Hulme as she was known – developed a reputation for being tough and sharp but, above all, caring.
She drove a distinctive white Mini and from the late ’60s kept her black poodle called Bimbo underneath the desk in her office in Yorkhill.
When Barbara was a young girl, her father would take her to visit her Aunt Olive’s apartment on the grounds of Yorkhill and it helped inspire her to become a paediatric nurse.
“We used to go up to the old Yorkhill when I was wee, and she had a lovely apartment with wooden panelling and tiles on the floor and lovely furniture,” explained Barbara.
“It was remarkable – the position came with a maid so she wasn’t expected to do any housework for herself.
“She didn’t marry, and she never wanted to be married. But she knew what she wanted out of life, and was a very focused woman.
“Although she didn’t have children of her own she was a children’s nurse and she was
always interested in young people and their views.”
Yorkhill was rebuilt in 1966, and Olive oversaw a huge project to move the young patients to the nearby Oakbank Hospital until work was completed.
That took five years, but the new building needed more work which stretched out for another 12 years. Where others might have crumbled under such a stressful and drawn-out process, the formidable Miss Hulme stood firm.
The health board wrote to Olive when she retired to thank her for her work during the troubled move saying: “Without your dedication and spirit it would have been indeed possible for the staff morale to have ebbed away entirely at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children during this period, but (we) hope that now you will be able to take pleasure in the fact the hospital is nearly back to normal.” Olive moved to Helensburgh after retiring in 1983, then to Broughty Ferry in 2006. She died last year at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Dundee, following a short battle with illness. Barbara helped clear her home and decided her aunt’s remarkable records should be handed to the NHS.
I feel so lucky to have got to know so much about Olive and her very special life. She was a really special lady
Olive Hume, third from bottom left, had a trailblazing career in nursing, helping oversee the building
NHS matron Olive Hulme
Jen Rodgers at work last week
of the Yorkhill children’s hospital