In­spi­ra­tional fig­ure’s in­flu­ence still felt to­day

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - THE ISSUES - By Ste­vie Gal­lacher SGALLACHER@SUNDAYPOST.COM

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.

Olive Hume, third from bot­tom left, had a trail­blaz­ing ca­reer in nurs­ing, help­ing over­see the build­ing of the Yorkhill chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal

NHS ma­tron Olive Hulme

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