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Listen to young contemporary jeweller Stacey Bentley talking about the making process and inspiration behind her new nursing badge for the Unsung Heroes project at: http://talesofthings.com/totem/group_view/55/

Listen to Margaret Evatt’s account of nursing during and after WW2

http://talesofthings.com/totem/group_view/55/

Do you know anybody with memories of nursing during a War? Have you nursed in recent conflicts?

The first three interview extracts from the oral history interviews about nursing and nurse’s lives are now available at:  www.talesofthings.com/totem/group_view/55/

 A major element of the ‘Unsung Heroes’ project  has been the interviews undertaken with current and retired nursing staff.

Volunteers and research students have had the privilege to interview over 30 current and retired nurses whose memories have been recorded and transcribed.

Once the project has been completed, the recordings and transcriptions will be available through the Lothian Health Services Archive http://www.lhsa.lib.ed.ac.uk for researchers to access.

The interviews have also informed the new work to be displayed with the historic hospital and nursing badges in a permanent installation at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh.

More extracts from the interviews will be on the Tales of Things website shortly.

Members of the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh Unsung Heroes Steering Group made a trip to eca, edinburgh college of art, to catch up with the research students working on the project.

We looked at their initial research. Below is a page of one of the sketch books. Jo has been  looking at the architecture of the old Royal Infirmary on Lauriston Place and the new hospital at Little France. She has also undertaken an interview with a member of staff from the Simpson’s Unit – the maternity unit at the RIE. Check the blog in a couple of weeks for extracts from the interview.

 

We then learnt how to make a very basic enamel badge. Enamel artist Elizabeth Turrell took us through the steps. My conclusions? Everyone can get a good result using the very basics. Beginners can’t go wrong really with a good teacher and the vibrant  colours of the powdered glass, pre-made metal badge forms and the dynamism of fire. Its an exciting and rewarding process and everyone was pleased with what they had made.

One of the badges going into the kiln.

Looking forward to posting some images of the finished badges.

badge enquiry

There you go. Blogs do work. Out there in the ether  is a person with a mystery badge. Can anyone help identify this gorgeous badge on the right in the picture?

 

Bring A Badge Day

Bring a Badge Day arrived. I had not idea who was going to turn up or even if anyone was going to make it. In a busy acute hospital when every spare part of a shift is pressured, it was a risk to know if nurses would have time to remember that there were lots of beautiful badges and displays of old photographs about the Royal Infirmary and nursing in the 20th c. in the Sanctuary. Two displays of historic nursing and hospital badges had been prepared by archivists from Lothian Health Services Archives and the Royal College of Nursing respectively.

No worries. All sorts of people popped in to have a look, bringing their own badges and all sorts of documents as well as sharing their memories of training and nursing. Sheila and Claire, two retired nurses made the journey to the Royal Infirmary to show us their badges and talk about training in the 1950s. Sheila also brought her beautiful Affleck Medal. One trainee nurse each year was awarded this prestigious prize. Must get a photograph of the medal.

Diane, called in with both her Scottish and her Australian nursing badges to show us. Just goes to show, nurses trained at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh worked all over the world!

Ruth, wetted our appetites by telling us that she still had the timetables from when she was training as a nurse at the Royal Infirmary, her Pelican badge, which she showed us and her certificates.

I now have lots of contacts to follow up for interviews. Keep checking the blog for interview extracts, going back as far as the 1940s.

Thank you to the archivists from Lothian Health Services Archives and the Royal College of Nursing for bringing badges from their collections for display. Thank you to the Spiritual Care team for enabling us to use the beautiful sanctuary for the day.

The RIEVs, as they are fondly called, have played a key part in the history of nursing and care in some of Edinburgh’s hospitals for the last 73 years. We will be interviewing a number of the  RIEVs as part of the project and look forward to posting their memories on the blog and tracking down a badge for the collection.

After so many years of dedicated voluntary service and fundraising, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Volunteers met for the last time for a celebratory farewell tea at the Roxburghe Hotel in December 2010. Having heard some of their stories and fascinating memories, we have been able to persuade a number to record their experiences for the ‘Unsung Heroes’ Project, for along with the nursing staff, these mainly ladies are very much the unsung heroes of some of Edinburgh’s medical institutions.

Ranging in age up to 87 years – the longest serving member has worked as a volunteer for 41 years and seen many changes in Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, the Eye Pavilion and the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion.

A Brief History

The Beginnings. Volunteers started out life as ‘the RIE Ladies’ Extension Appeal Committee’, which held its inaugural meeting at the City Chambers on 26th July 1937. This was in response to an appeal launched by the managers of the Infirmary which aimed to raise funds to build an extension to the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh – to build the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion (SMMP) and the Florence Nightingale Nurses’ Home. These were the days before the NHS when the Royal Infirmary was funded entirely by donations.

The committee consisted of many well known Edinburgh ladies and countesses, and was headed by the Countess of Minto. As stated in the first minutes, they aimed to raise £30,000 towards the extension appeal fund, a not inconsiderable sum in the 1930s. The early minutes show that the ladies had many ideas about how to go about raising the funds which included: an auction, a bridge drive, a badminton tournament, a period ball (to be held at the BBC), a cookery book and concerts at the Usher Hall.

Once the funds for the extension had been raised, it was felt that the original name no longer reflected the aims of the organisation and the name was changed in 1938 to the Women’s Maintenance Council (WMC). Their first undertaking was to supply the Maternity Pavilion (about to open in 1939) with nightdresses, baby vests and cot linings. It was estimated that 3,000 baby garments would be required each year; by March 1939, the WMC had made 3,599!
They also started going into the RIE with books, bandages, bed jackets and towels and soon were also meeting daily to make swabs, dressings and garments.

World War 2. During WW2, the work of the WMC was increased as swabs were made for the war effort.Marjory Maw, Honourable Secretary, wrote in the publication ‘Women’s Maintenance Council 21 years 1938 – 1959′.

“All through the war, the Work Room was open all day, three evenings a week and Sunday afternoons, filled with workers cutting and folding gauze, making huge quantities of spagnum moss dressings and rolling plaster bandages. Help was given making dressings for the Skin Department, cutting bread for the Nurse’s Dining Room and even padding Thomas’ splints. Coats, dresses, siren suits and other garments were made in the Work Room for blitzed areas.”

Another wartime activity, inaugurated in 1940, was a very successful second hand market. There goods of every conceivable kind were gathered. This continued until the end of clothes rationing in 1950.

It was also at this time that some of the longstanding services began with the popular canteen and the tea trolley service to the out-patients’ departments.

Post War. By the mid 1960s the WMC had introduced a library, a trolley service to the wards, a telephone trolley and the Santa Claus fund which provided Christmas presents for young and elderly patients. The popular hospital shop opened at the SMMP, with a turnover of £4k per month and an automatic and very popular stocking vending machine was provided for the Florence Nightingale Nurse’s Home.

In 1976 it was felt that the word ‘maintenance’ no longer applied to the breadth of activities that the WMC were involved in and the name was changed to the ‘RIE Volunteers’ (RIEVs).
The 1980s saw further increases in services such as the purchase of a bus for geriatric patients, whilst at the same time trying to cope with reduced revenues, largely as a result of a decision to stop selling cigarettes in the hospital shop!

The 1990s saw further changes: there was a continued increase in takings from the café, the Eye Pavilion buffet, the shop, buffet and trolleys to outpatient departments. In 1993, a new audiology service started to assist with the distribution of hearing aid batteries. However, by 2000 the number of volunteers had fallen to 284, of whom, 50% were over 70 years old.
Since 1981, the RIEVs have donated over £1 million to the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, including funds to help collect their history as part of this project.


NOTES
1.With thanks to the Lothian Health Services Archives for the research that they provided.

2. Images: Above – Nurses at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Shop, c.1960s. © Lothian Health Services Archive. Below- Trolley Service, c.1960s © Lothian Health Services Archive

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