Saturday, 3 October 2009

Leith Hospital

This is going to be quite a long post but for those who love a good yarn and some history too I hope you like it
I have just unearthed this tattered photo, while I was looking for something else and … after much peering at the writing on it … I have discovered that this is dated 13-8-11, so I now know that my Nana was not in London long before she met and nursed Horace.
The titles of the personnel of the theatre, pictured here are …
House Surgeon, Cheeky Student and Assistant House Surgeon (Men Lt to Rt) Electrical Sister, Theatre Nurse and Theatre Sister (Ladies Lt to Rt)

Anyone got any ideas as to what an Electrical Nurse is ????

Here are my LO's and the story behind it all.

Euphemia Jane Ritchie … aka … Jean ...... b 1882 m1913 d1960
She got a place to train at Leith Hospital… not that it had the status of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary but she was happy to be a nurse. Her brothers were said to have some times teased her if they saw her in uniform … calling out “Here comes Phemey from the Royal” because of how she strode along … with an air of great importance.
When I was a child she would recount many scary stories about children swallowing knives and forks after the fairs had been to town … sword swallowers were a great attraction for the youngsters …maybe it was to stop me doing anything quite so silly. She would also tell me how hard it was …especially during her first year, when it felt that all she did was scrub floors and clean up awful messes. …maybe that was a warning to me not to follow in her footsteps.

She was an Acting Sister for sometime after being a Staff Nurse and applied for a permanent post in 1909. I also know that she worked in the Casualty Department and was a Theatre Sister too yet she gave it all up to become a private nurse in London only two years or so later.
(She is 2nd row down ....5th from the Rt)
I really do not know why she left but the only thing that might shed some light on it is a story Mum told me.

When Nana was a Theatre Sister, she had gained the respect of most of the Surgeons and one day she put it to the test.
A young boy came into theatre to have the amputation of his leg carried out … without anaesthetic. My Nana questioned the reason for this and was told that the anaesthetic would probably kill the child, as he had a weak heart. She knew you should never question a surgeon’s decision but she could not help herself and so continued. She pointed out that a death due to surgical shock would be more likely in this case and he would die in agony, rather than peacefully under anaesthetic. Apparently she also added that if he continued without anaesthetic …she and her nurses would leave the theatre. What ever the truth of that part was, we shall never know but apparently the operation continued …with anaesthetic …and the child survived the ordeal.
Maybe things were made difficult for her after that and that is why she left … or maybe she just wanted to experience life.

And for those who are gluttons for punishment and are still reading this…here is the …….


1788 … Edinburgh and Leith Humane Society was formed
1815 … Leith Dispensary was opened on Broad Wynd
1825 … They joined forces under the one name of Leith Dispensary
1837 … The first Casualty Hospital in the area, at Quality (now Maritime) Street was opened
1846 … A meeting was held which had the intention of bringing together the work of both the dispensary and the hospital.
1849 … The new Leith Hospital was finally built in Mill Lane. Gradually wings were added either side of King Street, including a Nurses Home.
1886 … It was finally agreed that women Medical Students could attend the hospital for clinical instruction.
1907 … The hospital was now able to serve as a General Hospital, for the use of Men Women and Children and included an Accident Unit.
1987 … The doors finally closed.
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Carmen said...

What an amazing woman - did you watch Casualty (I forget the year) but it was based on the London hospital and you can just imagine procedures like that being carried out when you see programmes like that. It's horrifying and it's not to distant in the past.

Really good post, gorgeous lo's.

LadyBug said...

another wonderful story! you have such a great FH i love reading this blog!!! Beautiful photos and great LO's!!!

my5bratz said...

another fab piece of hstory brought to life. Googled Electrical nurse and couldnt find anything...

Morning's Minion said...

I looked at these photos on your other blog and am just back here to reread the stories. Your Gran had beautiful hair--I think you resemble her. It must have been so daunting for a young woman then to hold out for training and a career.
The colors which you chose for Nurse Ritchie are such a compliment to the portrait--feminine without being fussy. I mentioned your layouts with the vintage photos to a co-worker today as we had been commenting on the lovely papers and scraping oddments in the local stationary shop--so tempting, but I know better than to tool up for another craft. If I retain my eyesight and my wits long enough to make quilts of all my lovely fabric, it will be a wonder. My energy doesn't keep up with my ideas.
Thank you for sharing these family portraits and stories--so nicely done.

Alistair said...

linked through via mornings minion,

I think the electrical nurses were involved with shock therapy for 'mental' illnesses.


enjoyed the post

Pam said...

very interesting-I was in Leith just today-was leith Hospital Dr Bells?-or was that something different?

Dartford Warbler said...

I have just found your blog via Morning`s Minion and was fascinated by your research into your Nan`s history as a nurse. My first career ( 11 years of it) was in nursing and my mother was a nurse during WW2 and until she retired in the late 1970s.

Good for your Nan for protecting that young boy from the terrible experience of an amputation without anaesthetic. Florence Nightingale said that the first duty of a nurse was to be the patient`s advocate, which your Nan most certainly was.

I agree with Alistair that the "Electric Nurse" was probably one who cared for psychiatric patients undergoing ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy).