My name is Audrey Matthews, nee McKean, nee Pickering.
I was born in 1949 and came to Stobhill in 1967 to commence student
nurse training which would take three years. It is 2007 and I am
still here. I am now 57-years-old.
Radical restructuring of Stobhill is underway to produce a new
hospital on the bones of the old one. The new one will reflect on
how patients will be cared for in this 21st century. They say it
will be completed in 2009 and so will I as I will be 60-years-old
and will retire.
I would like to share some of my memories of the 20th century Stobhill
before I go. I hope you find them interesting.
There were 28 students in my class and we were all between the
ages of 17 and 20. For the first six months of our training it was
mandatory to live in the hospital grounds in one of the six nurses
homes. We would be working shifts and living above.
The shop meant we would not have to rely on public transport to
get us to work on time. None of us owned a car and certainly none
of us could drive.
As preliminary Training Students (PTS) we came in for very special
treatment. We were housed in a mansion called Belmont House, c1910.
This house had been the home of Hugh Reid, managing director of
the North British Locomotive Company. It embodied the wealth and
power of the Reid family occupying the highest point in the city
of Glasgow with views of seven counties.
Hugh Reid died in 1935 and bequeathed the mansion to Stobhill as
a childrens home in memory of his wife, Marion Bell, who had
died in 1913. The Marion Bell Home was later used as a nurses living
and training quarters. The houses huge bedrooms were converted
to small dormitories accommodating about six of us per room. Even
though the house had to have considerable changes made to it, it
never lost any of its magical air of prosperity and grace.
This beautiful house was demolished in 1986. I think fire had broken
out and the house was unsalvageable. It was situated at the Balgray
Hill end of the hospital, surrounded by fabulous gardens, as was
much of the ground in Stobhill. I can remember a floral display
created on the area opposite the clock declaring that HEALTH
The enclosed photograph is taken on the front steps of the mansion.
I am third from top, second on the left. Our tutor Miss Pearson
is also in the photograph, she also lived in with us. She would
come round in the evening to bid us good night wearing a long dressing
I am sure it was also to make sure we were all present and correct.
We had quickly located a fire escape in the house which was used
on illicit nights out to get back in.
We were issued with stone hot water bottles as it was October and
cold. The house was heated with coal fires which were lit only in
the evening and only in the communal sitting room. I always wondered
what became of the piggy water bottles as they were called.
At no time were we allowed visitors to any of the live-in quarters.
During my time in Belmont House, the occasion of my 18th birthday
came round. I was watching a very popular American series called
Payton Place. It was very risqué for those days and, therefore,
very popular. My tutor came to the sitting room and told me I had
visitors and that I would be allowed to go outside to see them.
My mum, sister and her fiancé were outside in the fiancés
wee pink and blue Ford Prefect. They had come to wish me happy birthday
with a cake festooned with 18 candles in the back seat.
My pleasure was almost marred by the fact that in my dressing gown
pocket, were a packet of highly illegal cigarettes and a box of
very noisy matches. Fortunately the matches behaved themselves and
remained silent and by association the cigs did not fall out of
I never thought about the tutors having private lives and cannot
recall any of the Sisters being married. Being dedicated to their
vocation was then considered saintly and the object of bad wages
or working conditions was never discussed. I dont suppose
they had time for boyfriends and where would they go to meet a boy?
My first pay was £13 10 shillings and sixpence. Food and
lodgings had already been deducted. I thought I was rich! That was
for a calendar month. On pay day we would queue at the pay office
under the clock tower, which I think was a listed building and therefore
should still be standing. Is it? We were paid in cash in a wee brown
envelope. It would be many years before we had bank accounts.
After the first six months had passed, we had the option to live
out. I chose to live in for the duration of my training and moved
to the main nursing home which was situated half way up the road
leading to the top of the hospital. There were four storeys in this
building, no elevator, no fire escape and one public pay phone situated
on the ground floor.
The level of seniority governed what floor you lived on. For the
next six months I lived in a room in the attic shared with four
others. As I progressed in my training, I gradually had a room of
my own on the second floor. The bathrooms and toilets were situated
at either end of corridors.
As you entered your final year, you were in the privileged position
of living in one of the smaller nurses homes. The rooms all had
washhand basins, but the bathrooms and toilets were shared. We were
considered mature enough to be trusted with our own front door keys
and so we became in charge of ourselves.
Up until this time we would go home on our days off. A 48-hour
pass would be issued by the home warden who would record in her
ledger details of where and with whom we would be spending our time
off with. God knows why they needed to know this. Maybe the wardens
just wanted to know what went on in the outside world.
These wardens would live in with the students in the various nurses
homes. They were all middle-aged spinster ladies who never seemed
to leave the hospital and in hindsight I wondered if they had homes
to go to.
Student nurse training took the form of a period of time, usually
six weeks, spent in class to learn theory and simulated ward procedures,
followed by three months on the wards to consolidate what you had
just learned in class. Exams were taken on the last day in class,
the results being posted on a very public notice board!
We worked a 42-hour week comprising a three-tier shift system.
We were not supernumery during our training. We were expected to
work in the ward while studying for our exams. As we became more
senior, we would frequently be in charge of a ward, usually on night
duty as the trained staff were needed for the day-time activities.
Every Christmas we would put on either a pantomime or a show made
up of a number of skits. It was amazing to find out the talent hiding
behind stethoscopes and aprons. We had wonderful singers, dancers,
actors and musicians to call on to put on the show. These were not
professional entertainers, but staff from all over the hospital.
The show was put on for two nights, the first night for patients
and their families and friends. The second night was for staff and
their families and friends. I dont know why this wonderful
tradition ceased. It was enjoyed by all who participated.
My three years training in Stobhill were some of the happiest times
of my life. I met thousands of people and had the privilege of helping
them get better. I was and still am enormously proud of my profession.
As I write this, Stobhill looks like one gigantic building site
and yes it will be fabulous when its completed. I close my
eyes and transport myself back through time to my heydays as a young
lassie on the brink of life.
I can hear bird song, smell the wonderful flowers our own gardeners
planted and tended. There were benches situated throughout the grounds
for patients to enjoy the scenery and prams to wheel the child patients
I grew up here and have weathered all the emotions a human being
experiences in a lifetime. Its time to move on to the next
stage of my life which will not include Stobhill. I am, however,
looking forward to the future and wonder how my lovely Stobhill
is coping without me.
< Return to Your Stories