Diamond Jubilee anniversary for nurses who trained in Edinburgh

The women graduated together in 1962
The women graduated together in 1962
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A group of 23 nurses and their partners have been reunited by the City of Edinburgh Council, 60 years after they met as students at the Western General Hospital.

The lifelong friends flew in from Australia, Canada and from across the UK to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee Anniversary with a civic reception in the City Chambers.

The lifelong friends flew in from Australia, Canada and from across the UK to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee Anniversary with a civic reception in the City Chambers.

The lifelong friends flew in from Australia, Canada and from across the UK to celebrate their Diamond Jubilee Anniversary with a civic reception in the City Chambers.

The event was hosted by Depute Lord Provost, Joan Griffiths, who gave thanks to the organising efforts of retired midwife Maureen Michie.

It was the first time in 10 years that the former nurses had arranged a reunion, and even the first time some had seen each other in 60 years.

Following her training, the event organiser Maureen worked principally in paediatrics and neonatal intensive care including in Canada.

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She said: “We all trained together at the Western General Hospital, all of us started at the same time on 7 September 1959 and we were the first group to use the newer nurses ward.

“We were in two layers in the ward, we of course got to know each other very well.

“We really had a lot of fun, we were residents and you couldn’t live at home certainly in your first year.

“In those days you were meant to work a 48 hour week which on paper, wasn’t bad, and the monthly salary was £10.

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“Although we got our board and lodging, it was amazing how expensive it was to buy tights and shoes and if you had a ladder in your stockings you had to sew it with black thread and it looked like spiders on our legs. Our uniforms had hard starch collars so when you came back from a holiday you had a ring round your neck, and a cap and an apron.”

In over 60 years of friendship the group have gone on caravan holidays and trips abroad to visit each other in different countries.

A decade ago was the first time that the women had met up as a group since training together and at the time they did a tour of the old hospital where they had worked.

Maureen added: “It’s so changed now, because the students don’t belong to a hospital, they belong to a university, I think it’s lost something which is rather sad.

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“But changes in medicine generally over the past 10 years are phenomenal, nurses are so much more technical than they used to be and there’s been a vast culture change, but no one belongs to a hospital anymore, no one has a hospital badge anymore.”

Belonging to a specific hospital is something that Maureen remembers proudly.

“You were very loyal to your hospital, the rivalry we had with Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was incredible.” She said, “No matter where you trained in the UK, it’s a very proud thing. I think you still get a bit of that but not to the extent there was.”

One invited nurse who trained with the group now lives in Barbados and was unable to attend due to Hurricane Dorian, where she is volunteering to provide emergency relief to those affected by the disaster.

Maureen wrote a poem to mark the milestone. In it, she said: “Can it be 60 years since we first met? The years pass so quickly, time flies, and yet. It seems only yesterday the legend started, three years completed before we parted. To go all our respective ways, to lead our lives in different ways. But friendships remained and so we stayed, in touch with many a Western maid.”