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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Heron Wray

What's it all about?

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

Dabbling in oils!


I stood at the bus stop on elsea Bridge Road and looked across at The Lister Hospital.

‘What the hell have I done’? I asked myself.

A prestigious job in SW1W. Excellent salary. I was Outpatient Manager in charge of three floors of Outpatient clinics, a laser department, plus I oversaw Chelsea Consulting Rooms, a private GP practice, in Lower Sloane Street. So many opportunities, so many amazing colleagues, so many famous faces, and here I was walking away from it all. But the deed had been done, my resignation letter was probably winging its way to our HR department as I stood waiting for the number 44 bus. My boss, Jo, had expressed her disappointment, but thankfully she was supportive and understood my reasons.

My thoughts wandered back to 1969. That year I had been a patient in Seafield sick children’s hospital in Ayr. I was the oldest in the ward and I had had my tonsils and adenoids removed. It had not been a routine procedure in that I haemorrhaged to such an extent that I was taken back to theatre where presumably the bleeding was stopped by cautery or whatever method was in use then, and I was given a blood transfusion. This resulted in me being a patient there for about a week instead of a couple of days. Long enough to take in every movement made by the nurses, the crisp uniforms with starched white aprons and perky caps on top of their heads. Even at the age of 9 I could sense the camaraderie and light-hearted humour which seeped and flowed between the nurses like blood from haemorrhaging tonsils.

Much to my family’s surprise, primarily because I had hated my time in hospital so much and cried every night begging to leave, the first thing I asked for when I got home was a dress up nurses’ outfit, I remember it now. A blue and white stripy dress with a little white apron attached. The apron had a red cross on the bib and a rather garish image of a fob watch stamped on it. The simple cap, no more than a strip of white cloth with another red cross on it, was held in place on my head by a thin piece of elastic. When I say held on my head, I mean that it slipped up and off at every opportunity. I felt sad about my lack of hair. My Mum insisted that it should be kept short and I dreamed of having long hair just like Alexandra Bastedo in ‘The Champions’. I just knew that if had a beautiful hair bun on top of my head that the nurse’s cap would have stayed firmly in place, it was quite frankly a huge disappointment {I tried to make my own using one of my Dad’s handkerchiefs with varying levels of success}. The outfit was topped off with a shoulder length blue cape piped with red ribbon which tied at the neck and frayed after the first use. I thought I was the bee’s knees when I wore it and insisted that every doll and teddy bear I owned should also have his or her T, s and A.s removed.

Little did I know that in less than ten years’ time I would be wearing a nurse’s uniform for real, and that the cap although disappointingly made of thick card, would stay firmly in place around my up-do.

The decision to become a nurse took me to several interesting places to practice and now the last place of employment was to be The Lister.

The following is my journey which has taken me from from a small village in the West coast of Scotland to the north of Scotland, East Lothian, America, The Cotswold’s, and Hertfordshire. I am not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel the need to share my story if only for Holly and Billy, my niece and nephew and perhaps one day if I am blessed with grandchildren

Like most journeys, there was much to discover, and plenty which passed me by. I have discovered that my eyes were often oblivious to what was right in front of them, in more ways than one.

I have always been fascinated by old buildings and social history and have come to appreciate that places I have lived and worked had more of their fair share of both.

Regrettably, I remained unaware of the plethora of history on my own doorstep when I was growing up in Ayrshire. However, when I began to research my family tree in 2014, I uncovered more about my past than I could ever have imagined, from Dad being interviewed on The One O’clock Gang, a popular television programme in the 1960’s, to Cousin Callum’s escapades in Moscow at the height of the cold war.

A large part of my journey has been spent in hospitals and in doctor’s surgeries working as a nurse and midwife. As I write this, my family are pulling together as families do, to help Mum and Dad. Mum has Alzheimer’s. This cruel and progressive condition affects everyone it meets and is totally ruthless. Mum becoming one of the ever-increasing number of victims, has made me realise how precious memories are, and how easy it is to forget details which we may not

think are important. I decided to write mine down while I can still remember them, and while I have relatives alive who can fill in some of the gaps.

I have spent many hours, days, weeks, and months using the Ancestry UK website. I discovered that I may be the 22nd Great Granddaughter of Robert the Bruce, and wept about the tragic life of Marjorie Bruce, but more importantly I have compiled a collection of stories and photographs for future generations of my family. I am certain at least one of them will be interested in where they came from. Relatives have come forward with stories, anecdotes and photographs for which I am most grateful. I am indebted to my Father, James Heron, My Aunt Margaret and Uncle Robert McMillan, William Heron, James MacCallum Manderson- my second cousin, and my Auntie Betty Hodge. They put out feelers, asking for information and photographs as well as patiently answering my numerous questions.

My nursing career, which began in Kilmarnock in 1978, with me shopping on King Street, ended when I retired from The Lister Hospital in Chelsea in 2014, where most of my shopping was done on The Kings Road. Two very different places, both indelibly etched into my heart.

As I said, I am in no way exceptional or remarkable, but I believe everyone has a story to tell. This is mine and no one else on earth can tell it the way I can, and that alone makes it exclusive and unique.

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