Derry nurses reunited after 50 years

The sudent nurses who started their training on May 9th 1966. back row, left to right, Miss Davidson, tutor, Elizabeth Starrett, Marian Porter, Fay McLaughlin, Elevyn O'Donnell, Noreen Reid, Rita McNamee and Elizabeth Allen. Centre row, left to right, Pat Smith, Gloria Holland, Patricia Merrick, Rose McGaughey, Heather Hemphill, Geirgie Reilly. Front row, left to right, Bridgeen Mellon, Mary Bradley and Dorothy King.
The sudent nurses who started their training on May 9th 1966. back row, left to right, Miss Davidson, tutor, Elizabeth Starrett, Marian Porter, Fay McLaughlin, Elevyn O'Donnell, Noreen Reid, Rita McNamee and Elizabeth Allen. Centre row, left to right, Pat Smith, Gloria Holland, Patricia Merrick, Rose McGaughey, Heather Hemphill, Geirgie Reilly. Front row, left to right, Bridgeen Mellon, Mary Bradley and Dorothy King.

A group of Derry nurses who studied, lived and worked together in the Agnes Jones House in Altnagelvin Hospital have been reunited after 50 years.

The women, who studied in 1966, went on to dedicate their lives to the vocation of nursing. However they never forgot the many friends they made along the way and earlier this month nine of them got together for a reunion night in the Beech Hill Hotel.

Members of the Altnagelvin Nursing Class of May 1966 pictured at their reunion, from left, Georgie Reilly, Evelyn Smith, Heather Hemphill, Mary McGrath, Rita McNulty, Bridgeen McCaul, Rose McGaughey, Elizabeth Dallas and Marian Donaghey.

Members of the Altnagelvin Nursing Class of May 1966 pictured at their reunion, from left, Georgie Reilly, Evelyn Smith, Heather Hemphill, Mary McGrath, Rita McNulty, Bridgeen McCaul, Rose McGaughey, Elizabeth Dallas and Marian Donaghey.

One of them, Evelyn Smith, explained that the first 12 weeks in Agnes Jones were spent having tuition.

“We then progressed to the wards,” she said. “That picture was taken on the first day we started in the wards. It was three years before you qualified and we all had to do a rotation. In those days we did six nights on and three nights off, but you never thought anything of it.

“The rule was that you had to live in the nurses’ home for the first two years. The craic there was great and there was great camraderie. We were like a family and used to borrow each other’s clothes.

“If you met a fella at a dance one week and he looked for the dress you were wearing the next he might find it being worn by a different girl!

We were like a family and used to borrow each other’s clothes

Evelyn Smith

“It was lights out at 11pm. in the home unless you had a pass to be out late.”

She revealed how the women had all branched into different forms of nursing including coronary care, surgical, midwifery and emergency.

“It was brilliant to meet up,” she said. “Sadly three of the girls have passed away and some of them couldn’t make the reunion. There was so much talking and great memories. We all agreed that we had been given great training from Matron Betty Boyce.

“For all of us nursing was a vocation.”