Jill Sparrow

Training to be a nurse at Harlow Wood Hospital

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I've been listening to some amusing tales from a friend of mine who is 81 this week. Aged 17, she was training to be a nurse at Harlow Wood Hospital. Margie H will recall how strict were the rules and regulations governing the nurses home.

 

Pauline Jackson, as she was in those days, got up to some mischief during her time there.

 

One Friday 13th, she had been teasing the patients on her ward with the tale of how, on that night of the year,  Bessie Shepherd whose murder is commemorated on a nearby stone, walked through the hospital wards at midnight. "So, if you see her tonight, don't call me because I won't come!" Student nurse Jackson explained firmly.

 

On night duty that evening with only an auxiliary for company, Pauline settled the patients and closed down the ward for the night, reminding them once again about Bessie. She then returned to her office and set about updating her charts.  As the night wore on and she sat in the eerie silence, Nurse Jackson started to feel uneasy and decided to go and sit in the kitchen with the auxiliary. "Are you scared?" laughed her colleague who was aware of the tale Nurse Jackson had been telling on the ward.  "Of course not!" came the reply.

 

At 2 minutes to midnight, Nurse Jackson got up and made her way back to the ward but, as she approached within sight of the doors, her heart thumped at the sight of something clothed all in white passing through them in the near darkness.

 

Screaming, Nurse Jackson fell back against the wall, sliding down it into a heap on the floor.

 

Bessie Shepherd in search of her murderer? Not a chance. Just some old dear in a hospital gown en route to the loo in the gloom!  In seconds, the entire ward was in hysterics and Nurse Jackson was never permitted to live it down!

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Good story .... just goes to show though...always a rational explanation for 'ghostly' goings-on. :biggrin:

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There was a fitter at East Leake I worked with, he swore black and blue he encountered a ghost underground one night, nights could be lonely at Marblaegis mine, you could be working alone for hours!

 

There is a university at Gettysburg, site of the US war between the states largest battle, during that battle, the university was used as a hospital, operations were carried out in the basement, which is used today as the archives for thousands of papers.

Many of the Professors and students have given their experiences while down there of seeing hundreds of dying soldiers.

We visited Wilson Creek Battle site years back and walked around it. I asked my wife if she felt as if someone was watching her, as I felt like I was being watched by hundreds of "eye's", she said yes, it's a very eerie experience.

I've heard of Veterans who have visited the WW1 battlegrounds and have said they felt like their were thousands of eye's watching them.

 

I went out with a trainee nurse from the City Hospital in the 60's, and she lived in the nurses home there, very strict rules applied, had to be in before a certain time as the doors were locked, mind she always arranged for a friend to make sure a window was left open for her...LOL

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Student nurses, apparently, were rarely favoured with a Saturday night off. Pauline and her colleagues were mad keen on dancing but the opportunity didn't often present itself.

 

Even if they weren't on duty, the nurses in the home were expected to be in bed and lights out at a riduculously early hour and all exterior doors were locked after the sister in charge had made her rounds. The age of majority in 1955 was 21 and the student nurses were in the care of their superiors who acted in loco parentis.

 

None of this kept the girls in although a sympathetic ally was needed to open the sitting room window to admit late returnees who then scampered off to their beds.

 

Having very little money, the girls didn't want to waste it on bus fares, so having travelled into Mansfield to a dance, they invariably walked back to the hospital.

 

Nurse Jackson and three friends clambered in through the sitting room window one night, scampered to their rooms as quietly as mice but hadn't bargained on the zealous attention to duty of the new sister in charge who opened the door to every room at lights out to wish the occupant goodnight. That evening, she discovered 4 empty beds.

 

Pauline's 3 colleagues were soon between their sheets but not Pauline. Her door was locked!  Initially, she decided to sleep in the sitting room but then realised she would be unable to access her uniform in the morning and would be in trouble.

 

Rousing her friends, it was decided that the only course of action was to pinch the keys which were kept on the dressing table of the sister in charge who slept in a room at the end of the corridor.  Since her friends daren't do it, Nurse Jackson tiptoed in and located them in the darkness, unlocked the door to her room and then put them back without disturbing her superior's snores.

 

The following morning, she received some curious glances but, surprisingly, not a word was said!

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Have you seen this on the subject of Harlow Wood ?    There's enough information and photos to keep anyone occupied for a very long time; it goes back to the 1930s. Your friend might even find herself in some of the photos.

 

https://www.ourmansfieldandarea.org.uk/content/category/topics/health/harlow-wood-orthopaedic-hospital

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There is indeed a plethora of information and memories on this establishment but the photos don't seem to cover the period she was there in the mid 50s. She returned to work there later on, after nursing at Mansfield General, a place she disliked intensely. Ended her career at King's Mill.

 

She does have some photos. I'll ask her to look them out.

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Did your friend stay at Harlow Wood after her 2 year training or did she move on to Nottm General or Leicester Royal?   I seem to remember a Sister Jackson in my time there, which would be about 5 years after her's.  

Working on nights often felt a bit spooky, but I never actually saw any ghosts.   The worst thing was being in charge of a ward when you were only 18 or 19 - there was a Night Sister, but she was based in a room in a different part of the hospital.  She did a couple of Ward rounds during the night to make sure all was going well,  but I once had an emergency .... a middle aged patient had a pulmonary embolism in the middle of the night.  She called out so I hurried over but it was too late to save her.  The auxiliary phoned the Night Sister who rushed down to the ward, but there was nothing she could do either.  Then the on-call doctor came but he said there was nothing we could have done differently.    I was  18 and only halfway through my Orthopaedic training.  We were given too much responsibility at a young age, I think.   Most of the time, nights went smoothly - we just had to do stuff like 2 or 4 hourly obs,  turning patients regularly who were susceptible to bedsores, fetching the odd bedpan or bottle, changing any transfusions every 4 hours and then making a start on washing patients who were on bed rest before the day staff arrived.

 

Many times I and my friends climbed in our bedroom windows in the Nurses' Home after a night out, but we never had to walk back from Mansfield as we always found someone who would offer to drive us back!

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19 minutes ago, MargieH said:

Did your friend stay at Harlow Wood after her 2 year training or did she move on to Nottm General or Leicester Royal?   

At some point, she moved to Scotland, where she met her husband. Later, they returned to the Mansfield area and again she worked at Harlow Wood, I think until it closed.  She was encouraged to study for her sister's qualification and, I'm sure, would have been successful but she preferred to remain at the coal face, as it were, because she enjoyed caring for the patients.

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A highlight of my friend's training at Harlow Wood occurred after the admission to her ward of an elderly tramp. Confined to bed and encased in a two part plaster cast, he confided that he hadn't had a bowel movement for some weeks.

 

The rather officious sister informed him that he would be given laxative tablets to bring about rectification of this condition.

 

After a further two weeks, still no bowel movement had occurred and, whilst administering a bed bath...first removing the front of the cast, then turning the patient and removing the back of the cast...my friend discovered a large cache of laxative pills secreted under the mattress where he'd been stuffing them!

 

Sister was furious and insisted that the gentleman of the road swallow the pills in her presence.  However, still no bowel movement occurred.

 

At last, Sister Officious declared that matters could be left no longer and the patient must be cleared out manually. As she was preparing to hand over the enema procedure to Student Nurse Jackson, sister lowered her head to inspect the area in question, at which point, several weeks' worth of doo doo evacuated at speed and covered her in glory!

 

Job satisfaction, eh?

 

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4 hours ago, Jill Sparrow said:

There is indeed a plethora of information and memories on this establishment but the photos don't seem to cover the period she was there in the mid 50s.

 

The first link I provided only showed a small part of what I'd originally found.

 

If you have the time and inclination, try this, which links to much more.

 

https://www.ourmansfieldandarea.org.uk/wp-search/harlow

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P-20191005-110551-001.jpg

 

My cat rescue friend, Pauline, has found a couple of photos of prize giving at Harlow Wood in 1955.

 

 

 

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The only face I can recognise is Miss Custerson, the Matron.  In 1955 I was only 12 so it would be another 5 years before I started there as a cadet nurse.  Some of the people on the picture may have still been there when I started but most moved on to Leic  Royal or Nottm General to complete their general training after gaining their Orthopaedic qualification.   I loved being there and I have loads of happy memories of the place..

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I have an aunt (Mothers sister) who spent 2½ years in a plaster cast at Harlow Wood with TB. Went to see her on Thursday as she is now 90. Nowt wrong with her back still! In fact there isn't much of anything wrong with her.

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Malcolm, can your aunt remember which Ward she was on and which years she was there?

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I would think she would be around 20 when she had TB so likely to be late 40's. I'll ask what ward next time I see her but she has a tendency to blot things out of memory that were not 'nice'.

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Malcolm, that would be a bit before my time there, but it would be interesting to see if she remembers which Ward she was on.  In my day, younger girls were on Ward 2

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I also know someone who worked there in the 50's and possibly earlier. He must be in his late 70's now but I can't remember his surname. His first name was Kevan - spelt with an 'a' rather than an 'i' . I believe he was a nurse but not sure.

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Can't think of a Kevan at Harlow Wood but that may just be my bad memory!  I knew a Kevan Connor who lived somewhere in Thorneywood (I think ) - he and his family always went on holiday at the same time and the same campsite as us each year at Chapel St Leonard's.  

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Pauline Jackson, as she then was, trained at Harlow Wood from the mid 50s. She was born in 1938. Malcolm's aunt would have been there before Pauline's time but she may recall Kevan. I will ask her.

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Pauline recalls a number of male orderlies, as they were then termed, but no one named Kevan. She does recall Cliff. He was the chap whose responsibility it was to saw the plaster casts in half for those who were destined, like Malcolm's aunt, to spend some years at Harlow Wood. This enabled bed baths to take place.

 

She also recalls 'Sir', who was the tutor for the children hospitalised at Harlow Wood and who had to attend lessons each day. His name she does not remember.

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I remember Cliff 

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He was the orderly in the Plaster Room (if I remember correctly) and he was very friendly

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