Obituary: Bess Jamieson, maternity nurse and textiles expert

Bess Jamieson. Picture: supplied
Bess Jamieson. Picture: supplied
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A NURSE who worked in one of the Capital’s busiest maternity units has passed away at the age of 89.

Bess Jamieson was well known and respected in both Walls in Shetland and Edinburgh, where she retired as matron at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion after an accomplished 45-year career in nursing.

In Shetland, she was dedicated to preserving the island’s traditional crafts.

Instrumental in the creation of the Shetland Textile Museum and founder of the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers, she was born on October 18, 1926, in Siantar, Sumatra – then part of the Dutch East Indies. Her parents were John Arthur Jamieson of Garderhouse, who worked as a rubber planter, and Gertrude Garriock of Scalloway. The family returned to the UK in 1930, eventually settling in Aberdeenshire.

Bess was taught her profession at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and completed midwifery training at Simpson’s.

She was assistant matron in Nakuru, Kenya, for five years, where her passion for outdoor activities blossomed.

Her experience was marred by the notorious Mau Mau Uprising, when she was tasked with caring for some of the victims. She then worked as a relief district nurse on the west side of Shetland until her appointment as Superintendent of Nurses at Westminster Hospital, London, where she delivered many babies and was presented to Queen Elizabeth.

In 1975, she became matron at Simpson’s, where she remained until retirement, and was again presented to the Queen.

While in Edinburgh, Bess spent time in Shetland each summer with her mother. She rented Moodie’s Hoose in Sandsound, before buying Pointataing in 1965. Her passion for textiles and Shetland’s traditional crafts also grew as she became an expert in carding, spinning, weaving and knitting.

Bess shared her knowledge readily, teaching many, and gave numerous demonstrations and lectures in countries including Canada, the US and Japan. She took particular pride in the educational and aesthetic displays she created for the museum, first at the Weisdale Mill and then at the Böd of Gremista.

Bess also collected and preserved numerous outstanding textiles and the implements used in their production, including Aidie’s last hand-loom, upon which she wove cloth.

Though a very private person, Bess was known for her warm heart and abilities as a teacher. She particularly enjoyed helping young girls learn how to knit. A great lover of nature, Bess was especially happy when otters used her lamb house as a den for their young pups.

She is survived by two sisters – Gertrude Northcott, in Perth, Australia, and Jacqueline Gilardi, from Davis, California.