Retired Falkirk nurses recall the early days of the NHS

Lesley Douglas talks about her experiences as a nurse in the early days of the NHS
Lesley Douglas talks about her experiences as a nurse in the early days of the NHS

Nurses have been working tirelessly for the NHS for 70 years as of today (Thursday).

Marie Goldie (77) and Lesley Douglas (84) are in as good a position as anyone to tell the story of the early days of the NHS, having both started work in the 1950s.

Retired nurse Marie Goldie talks about her experiences as a nurse in the early days of the NHS

Retired nurse Marie Goldie talks about her experiences as a nurse in the early days of the NHS

Marie originally came from Carron but has lived in Stenhousemuir since 1969, and started her NHS journey in 1955 when she was still at school.

Doing holiday work as an assistant in Stirling, she moved onto nursing school in Edinburgh for three years, before being trained as a general nurse at Glasgow Royal Infirmary from 1959 for four years.

In 1969, Marie started what would be over 25 years as a district nurse and midwife in Stenhousemuir, at what is now the Tryst Medical Centre.

Marie explained it was a very hands-on and practical approach to training nurses when she started out.

She said: “It was straight into the wards.

“You learned by example, the registered nurses would show you what to do and then you did it under supervision.

“Everyone was really excellent at teaching you what to do, it was mostly on a one-to-one basis.

“It was hard work, you didn’t get much time off, but it was really rewarding.

“We could be called upon at any time to go into any ward and take charge.

“A lot of nurses were doing doctor’s jobs.

“The NHS was wonderful, it was meant for everybody, and it was always so busy, especially in Glasgow, but we went through every patient.”

Lesley, who has stayed in Larbert since 1962, started work as a nurse even earlier than Marie from 1951, just three years after the start of the NHS.

It was a tough working week for Lesley and the other nurses, not getting time off to study.

She said: “It was enjoyable work, but at the same time it was really difficult.

“We had to do studies off-duty, you didn’t get time off to study, and most days were quite long, six days a week.

“Those were the days of rationing in the beginning, you ate in the hospital so when you had breakfast everyone came down at the same time, about 7am or 7.30am.

“I did general nurse training from 1954 to 1956, working in Edinburgh at the Princess Margaret Rose, then the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, then Perth Royal Infirmary for a couple of years after that, so I was all over. It was 1968 when I came back to work at the Falkirk and District.”

Lesley echoed Marie’s sentiment, that the job was often hands-on and tiring, but also that it was very enjoyable.

She said: “Some days you came home exhausted, but I’m very glad I did it.

“In the early days you lived in nurse’s homes, and you made friends very easily.

“It was very social, I’m still in touch with the girls I trained with all the way back in 1951.”

The social life through the NHS continues for Lesley and Marie through the NHS Forth Valley Retirement Fellowship, a group for retired NHS workers that meet every month.