Germs – don’t give them a Hand

Memories of New Year 1960

Daily Post Report 18.08.06 on Filming of Casualty 1906

Memories of PTS 1963

175 Years Forever Cunard BY JEAN WOODS

I still can’t believe that I’ve just enjoyed and been part of an Historical moment, in the history of Liverpool, when the” 3 Queens “ sailed into Cunard’s Spiritual Home Port to celebrate 175 years of that happening.

Jeanne Edwards and I set sail from Southampton on the Queen Mary making our first port of call at Cobh in Southern Ireland, where the earlier Cunard ships, including the Titanic, called to take Irish Immigrants to America. From there we went to Dun Laoghaire and for those visiting Dublin it was a bit tricky by Tender as the swell was a bit rough.

Despite a very dull and murky morning we had a lovely warm welcome at Greenock in Scotland. It was an even warmer departure at 9.30 in the evening to the sound of pipes and drums on the quayside, with thousands of people in their cars lining the roadways and a wonderful fireworks display. Cruising through the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Lorne the Queen Mary paid her first visit to Oban. A much smoother trip by tender to get ashore this time with many passengers off to visit the lochs and glens, such as Loch Fyne and Awe, as well as those wanting another boat trip to the Isles of Mull and Iona.

Sailing back through the Western Isles and around the Isle of Man the “Mary” crossed the Bar on a somewhat misty early Sunday morning. How disappointing, but not without bit of a laugh, as I had to explain to an American passenger “who the hell those crazy guys”, were standing in the water, as we passed Crosby Beach!

How proud I felt finally arriving at Princes Landing Stage, the skies somewhat clearer, with the Liverbirds looking as if they would flap their wings in welcome. What a welcome from the volunteers who helped the disabled on and off gangways to access the Cruise Terminal and buses for a visit to see the City, to the friendliness of the Scousers, themselves, who had flocked in their thousands to see the “Mary”. The evening concert, the light display and the fireworks were another great spectacle, although people watching on T.V. probably saw more than I did due to the angle I was watching. I was amused to hear the following day that many passengers from the Merseyside area went home to watch it all on the Telly!

On schedule at 9.30 am on Monday morning the Queen Mary upped anchor and steamed towards the Bar. It was really exciting to stand high on the forward deck as two black dots on the horizon emerged out of the mist. They grew larger and larger finally revealing the selves as the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. They were escorted by many small boats including the Lifeboat from Hoylake Station. For the thousands of people lining both sides of the river it must have been a fantastic sight as all “3 Queens” manoeuvred to salute the “3 Graces”. This was topped by the Fly Past of the Red Arrows!

Perhaps many of the crowd could have heard the “Mary’s” ships orchestra give a wonderful rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, with the passengers giving as good a voice as you can hear on the Kop. I wish I’d taken my football scarf to wave about! With blasts from all three ships horns the Queen Mary took her leave, making way for the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria to enjoy the hospitality and friendship that comes from visiting Liverpool.

Jean Woods and Jeanne Edwards.
Both trained at Liverpool Royal Infirmary 1949-1953, and both served as Nursing Sisters with the Cunard Steamship Co.

Memories of Prizegiving 1954

At this prizegiving Maureen Weir, nee Thornton, was awarded the Gold Medal and I was to receive one of the other prizes. I won the Elizabeth Pearson prize for an essay on a nursing subject and received an envelope with £30.
My black lace up shoes had a split across a crease and I did not want to replace them as I was about to leave! I decided to cover the split with a strip of Elastoplast, (no sellotape in 1954), and disguised it with black polish and hope! This was spotted by the eagle-eyed Sister Darrock on inspection. She was not pleased with me and gave me the key to her room on the sister’s corridor and told me where to find a pair of suitable shoes, which I did!
The official photograph of all the prizewinners shows us on the platform in the Outpatients Hall lined up facing from left to right, with the eyes of the audience on the front row level with our feet.
Sylvia Smith October 1950

Memories of Training at Liverpool Royal Infirmary September 1965-September 1968

I remember my interview with Miss Sarah Jackson very well. She asked if I had been confirmed and what sports I played! It was a daunting experience as she sat behind her large mahogany desk with “strings” on her cap. As I had only 4 “O” levels I had to take the General Nursing Council entrance exam, but was not the only one so I didn’t feel alone. A couple of weeks later I received the letter inviting me to start training on the 6th September 1965.
After a brief introduction in the Nurse’s home at LRI we were taken to Woolton Manor for our first eight weeks. The dormitory style bedrooms, which had no ceilings, meant we could chatter after lights out at 10pm! Food at P.T.S. was very tasty and I can still remember the taste of the delicious cauliflower cheese fifty years on! Days here were spent having various lectures and I recall the delightful Sister Laura Jones teaching us how to give a bedpan. We spent time in our yellow “daffodil” dresses visiting wards at LRI and I was based on Clarence ward with Tilly Lewenden and Irene Ashmore. Our eight weeks flew by and then it was time to move back to LRI and begin our training in earnest.
As we were the most junior we had rooms on the 5th floor of the “New” nurses’ home. The rooms were basic as were the bathrooms, where sometimes you had to queue up in order to take a bath. We would be able to make a hot drink in the tiny kitchen provided and many evenings, after a long day, we would gather in someone’s room to discuss any problems or dilemmas we had encountered during that day. So wonderful to have friends who understood any burning issue we had to get off our chest. I feel these times spent together has made us such close friends for so many years.
After Clarence ward I moved to ward 7 we all came together for first year Study Block. Miss Haynes asked if six of us were prepared to do a period of nights after block and somehow my hand went up with Elena, Pip, Carolyn, Mary and Val. I went on to ward 8 for these nights and moved to the night nurses’ home at 13 Rodney Street. We were transported back and forth to sleep and work by “Wally” in a minibus! Miss Martin, ( Marty), reigned supreme at Rodney Street! Sometimes Elena, Mary and I would help her in the garden and be rewarded with tea and cake! I can still remember her saying “no prams in the hall”. At the end of this spell of night duty Elena, Mary, Moira and I went to Brixham, in Devon, for a holiday in a caravan.
A great deal of second year was spent gaining experience in other specialities including Paediatrics, Ophthalmics or ENT Nursing. In my final year I went to Oxford Street Maternity hospital where I gained experience in Obstetrics and Midwifery. We had by now all moved into the “Old” Nurses’ Home, where we all secretly acquired keys for easy access!
Reflecting back on my time spent training I wouldn’t have wished to change my living on site. I am so happy to be part of the September 1965 P.T.S., celebrating 50 years since we began training to become State Registered Nurse’s. Happy memories that live on with our friendship.
Hilary Collins nee Phillips Sept 1965


I recently posted a link on the LRI website relating to photos from the 1960s taken in Liverpool. As part of Shelters 50th anniversary, the housing and homelessness charity is searching for the people behind the pictures and is urging Liverpool residents to help identify family or friends. Since then I can’t get over the shock I experienced when looking at them. They depict utter squalor and poverty of the sort that is difficult to imagine today with our social support network, despite its current shortcomings. It has made me reflect on what little I knew about poverty as I grew up in Liverpool and how sheltered an upbringing I suspect most of us had.

I was born in Lydiate, on a farm, and moved to Waterloo when I was three when my father died. We had very little money growing up as my mother was widowed aged 37 and left with 5 girls, I was the youngest, but she was a country woman who knew how to cook and make things last. We had hens and a productive garden so I don’t remember shortages even though rationing didn’t end until I was 9.

I have very clear memories of riding the bus into town with my mother and seeing all the bomb damage, especially a huge crater at the Rotunda on Scotland Road. I knew that many poor people lived in those streets with the flower names and we had dense choking fogs which turned our white clothes yellow and grimy. When I had my tonsils out my mother and I walked up a steep street from Scotland Road to John Bagot Hospital and I can remember the dress I wore that day so clearly. I also remember the trams and old St Johns market with all the men shouting to attract the housewives to buy, the shawlies and the chickens hanging up with all their feathers still on. But I also went to beautiful tearooms with my grandmother and aunts dressed in furs and sat in splendour taking afternoon tea. They went to Coopers for cheese and ground coffee and Bon Marche for lovely hats and perfume.

When I started primary school there was one boy who we all knew was poor but he was very naughty so I didn’t make friends with him, some of the girls came from a local Nazareth House orphanage and the strongest memory I had of one who became my friend was that she smelled quite different. She told me it was the soap they used. I suppose it was Carbolic or Lifebuoy but she hated it.

My Aunt was a Sister in the Medical Centre on Gladstone Dock. She was terrifically smart and attractive, immaculately turned out in her uniform complete with cuffs! The clinic was spotless and very well run, as a special treat I would visit with my Mother and walk down the long cobbled street with all the dockers. The nuns with their collecting tins were always waiting at the gates on payday for alms and the men were very generous I think. They were very respectful of my aunt and she was treated with great esteem by them.
My mother always visited the sick and elderly, even after she had a stroke late in life and was older than most of them! We often went with her as children and I have fond memories of baking cakes to give them and chats over a cup of tea, but all of them were in accommodation that was fine to my eyes. There were no bare boards, peeling wallpaper or mouldy walls such as in the photos. So I grew up imagining that was how it was when you were poor.

I started PTS August 1963 which would be around the times of those photos. As a naive, very unsophisticated girl it never entered my head that the men and women who presented themselves for admission could have come from such situations of dire poverty. It was different if it was an emergency admission of course. I expect the doctors asked about social conditions when they clerked patients in but I don’t recall ever thinking about such things as whether a patient had running water, hot water, a toilet to themselves, how many to a room or bed.

Even now I can’t explain how I just assumed everyone had what I considered normal living conditions- some better -some not as good but most ok. I am bewildered to think I presumed on discharge that patients would return to warm living quarters with enough food to build themselves up, be looked after and recuperate over time. I had no knowledge of dockers in pens waiting to be picked for a day’s labour or of the alternative if they weren’t. No idea about how you lived if you had nothing and a bunch of children.

So I have had to acknowledge how thoughtless I must have seemed advising these lovely patients, in the main, on how to recover on discharge and make lifestyle changes in blissful ignorance of the influences that would conspire to maintain disease despite my cheerful suggestions. But my innocence was tolerated by them all, I never remember a patient challenging me and telling me of their true domestic circumstances. I wish they had so that I think I would have hopefully added some more compassion to my professional behaviour. All I can say after all these years is I’m sorry for my lack of understanding -but I really did try to do my best.

Susie Overill


Pictures taken by documentary photographer Nick Hedges 1969-1971