Welcome to aturnofthekey

 Memories of Old St.Georges Hospital 1818-1995  and Coton Hill Hospital 1854-1976 Stafford
A shared record of the Life and Times of these once-proud Old Hospitals. 25/02/2012

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April 1st” in the Early 1960’s” – Folklore ? Retold  by –
Brian Simms . .

On the Male Admission Ward a somewhat cocky 3rd Year Male Student Nurse was told that a Patient was due to be admitted urgently. This Patient had apparently slashed his wrists, was too agitated to be admitted to the S.G.I. and would probably need an infusion. But as they had run out of fresh supplies at St Georges, he was asked to go straight up to Coton Hill and collect the 4 bottles required from Burndred Ward, which the Charge Nurse had luckily got stored in his fridge.
The Student dutifully slogged all the way uphill through Littleworth to Burndred Ward – Coton Hill, was presented with a Heavy cardboard box marked URGENT “Clotted Plasma for Infusion”. As he had been told to avoid any damage, he carefully pushed his bike and package all the way back to the Admission Ward and placed it in the ward fridge.
Asked by the Charge Nurse if he had checked that the package contained the correct Blood Product he replied oh yes  it’s Clotted Plasma ok and it’s safely in the fridge. The Charge Nurse Erupted  – “Clotted PLasma” – “Don’t you Know Plasma can’t Clot ?” – you better go and check what’s in the package.
The penny still didn’t drop properly until when unwrapping it, he found it contained a big jumble of bricks and a message saying, “APRIL FOOL”. The Student never saw the joke and as a result, had for a long time, the nickname of – “Plas” . . . .


A Night-Visitor” – A Personal Experience  by – Kath Cox. .

One night doing my rounds, in the long dark corridor from Female 9 to Woolley Ward, I was aware of not being alone. I heard footsteps behind me which appeared to stop when I stopped…. I shone my torch into the gloom but could see nothing. Taking a deep breath I moved forward, wishing I had full lighting not the emergency night lights. As I reached the bend by the kitchen the footsteps were still there, but – closer…… I turned, shone my torch into a recess and there was the Biggest Donkey I had ever seen. It must have entered from the yard through the rubber, flap doors.
When my heart rate returned to normal, I took it to the hospital centre by the switchboard where Bill the night telephonist and Don Perkins were eating supper together. I can’t repeat what Don said, but he made me phone the Police Station…. I told them I had found a Donkey in the Hospital and could they please come out…. After having to repeat the message several times they said they would investigate. In the meantime, Don Perkins told me to take it outside by the fountain, before it did a woopsy for us to clean up.
The Police arrived in good time. They thought it had probably wandered from the local Gypsy encampment and saw the rubber doors as the entrance to a stable. They got in touch with the Gypsies, who couldn’t prove satisfactory ownership, and eventually took it to a farm at Hixon.
For several years after it came to Pageant and Garden Party days etc. where it happily provided rides for the kids.
Don and Bill never let me forget the incident, often telling me to go and Tend the Livestock as well, when I did my nightly rounds.
Wonderful Memories of Happy days, and nights at St. Georges


Signing the Register” – A Personal Experience  by – Bill Sim . .

How many of us can still remember the Signing in Book at the foot of the Male Side stairs – listing which Ward you would be working on and what Escort Duties If any you were down for e.g. Dance, Cinema, Patient to SGI Clinic, etc. – often with the Deputy Chief Male Nurse or Assistant Chief Male Nurse standing by to catch Latecomers. If you were ten minutes or so late the Book would have been collected by Mr Arthur Bolton (Uncle Arthur) or perhaps Bill Murcott and taken back to the Office. You would then have to let him know you were in fact on duty now, with a good reason for being late, and face a good Ticking Off if it happened too often.
Oh – the Good Old Days !


The Best Excuse for Being Late”  A Personal Experience  by – Roy Shirley . .

As a Student Nurse on placement in Farmer Ward one morning at 6.25 am, I was signing On Duty in The Book (as described by Bill Sim in a previous Anecdote) for an early shift – 6.30am to 2.30pm, and noticed that the Charge Nurse L.M. had not yet arrived. There was nothing new in this as he  was often a few minutes late – 10 to 15 minutes or so. Going on to the Ward, the handover from the Night Staff took place – a quick cup of tea – and the start of the early morning routine of getting the Patients up – I think the other Staff on Duty was probably Staff Nurse K.T.
Whilst pressing on with the morning tasks, at 6.45 the ward door opened and in came Bill Murcott who was on Duty in the Office. He asked where the Charge Nurse was and on realising that he was not yet here mumbled about him always being late, saying that he was fed up of this, and would have to have a word with him. At 7.00 am Bill Murcott phoned to ask “has the . . . . come in yet”. When I said “no” he muttered something rude and put the phone down. He came to the Ward at about 7.15 and shouted from the door to K.T “where the . . . is he” and asked if he had phoned in. K.T. told him “no he hadn’t”.  By 7.45 He had rung the ward twice to ask after L.M. and to say that when he did he was to go straight to the Office.
At 8.30 The Charge Nurse walked in, pushing his bike as usual. I told him the situation and passed on the latest message. L.M. said he would ring him from the Ward Office.
At this moment Bill Murcott reappeared on the ward, red in the face and none to pleased saying “I’ve got you this time M.”
L.M. looked at him and said there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for why he had been late and said :-
” I got up in plenty of time for work this morning and was just about to leave the house when I noticed a pool of water on the kitchen floor and looked to see what was the cause. It turned out to be a hole in one of the pipes, near the taps over the sink, from where a stream of water was spurting. I couldn’t find anything to block it with so pressed my finger over the hole which seemed to work.
What could I do now? If I walked out now the water would soon flood the house whereas, if I kept my finger in place, I would stop the water but couldn’t come to work. Added to this the kids weren’t at school so both of them and my wife were still sound asleep in bed. What could I do ? I had no choice but to wait for someone to get up. Eventually my wife got up at about 8.00 am and I was then able to leave for Work.”
Bill Murcott looked at L.M. and us, made some comment like “I don’t . .  believe it” and left the ward exasperatedly.
The Best Excuse for being late ever ? Happy Days


A Shot In The Dark” – A Personal  Experience  by – Phil Warelow…

In the early 1970’s I lived in the Nurses Home with a group of The Lads. We often looked out of the windows facing the back road, by the Female Annex and Admission Ward, to see who was passing by. A large Male Night Supervisor, Ray Bennett used to regularly walk by on his Ward Rounds.
Certain of the Student Nurses who saw him from these windows used to shout verbal abuse at him, about his Personage, but one night took it a bit further. One of our number (either- PW, IW, RB, or RogB – without saying who) decided to fire pellets at him. He was decidely put out by this and swore to get the little . . . naming one of the offenders.
He sometimes had, as his offsider, a smaller man called Johnny G who used to swear a lot.
Happy Days – still makes me laugh today.


A Last Gasp” – A Personal Experience  by – Brian Simms..

A short while after being newly admitted a frail, elderly male patient was found to be very badly constipated and an enema had been prescribed. I subsequently found myself as a fresh, inexperienced Student Nurse on the wards, assisting the Staff Nurse to administer the first enema I had ever even seen. Having completed the procedure with no problems we sat the patient on the commode, cosily wrapped up in a warm blanket.
The Staff Nurse, took the trolley and equipment away to the clinical room, leaving me with instructions to observe the old man carefully.
He sat there chatting about his life and family, comfortably waiting for nature to take it’s course, when he suddenly collapsed.
I called the Staff Nurse as there was no pulse and he had stopped breathing. We worked on him for some time trying to resuscitate him but, unfortunately, to no avail. The Doctor subsequently pronounced him to be dead.
Later we had to prepare and lay him out, as  was the custom at that time, ready for transfer to our mortuary,  He was lying in a very low, cot-sided bed and we had to stoop down awkwardly to work on him.
As the Staff Nurse eased him over on to his left side for me to support him whilst washing his back, his right arm flopped lifelessly over on top of me. At the same time, due to the residual air in his lungs being suddenly expelled, with a last gasp, he emitted a long horrible moan.
It was nearly my last gasp too and by the time we had finished doing Last Offices for this poor old man I was pretty shredded.
This was my first and very unsettling, personal experience of a death on the wards – I have never forgotten it.


The Mortuary Goose”  –  A Personal Experience   by – David Johnson. .

A reluctant Staff Nurse was charged with instructing, me as a very naive new Student Nurse, about preparing one of our Deceased for viewing by Relatives in the Mortuary Mini-Chapel. I was somewhat anxious about this, my first such experience, and was not looking forward to it. He being of a dour, taciturn and somewhat unapproachable disposition, did nothing to dispel any of my fears.
On the way down to the Mortuary he instructed me to watch and take notes whilst he carried out the procedures.
Opening the fridge he described and showed me how to identify the correct body, transferred it to a gurney, and moved it into the discretely curtained off Viewing Area.
This being a somewhat cramped area, he made me stand adjacent to the Mortuary door, whilst continuing to observe etc.
He started setting everything up so that the Deceased was presentably viewable for when the Relatives arrived.
He had just bent over, making final adjustments to the drapes covering the Deceased, when the door opened.
One of the staff of a local undertakers quietly walked in, reached forward without a word, and Goosed the Staff Nurse from behind.
The Staff Nurse stood up, turned around and in his usual slow, laconic way said,  ” Ere Wots Your Game “.
By this time the guilty party was fast disappearing through the door, with a cheeky grin, mumbling ” Sorry, thought you were somebody else “. Silently he looked at me, whilst I managed to keep a straight face, finished what had to be done and we returned to the ward without another word being spoken.
All anxieties about doing this procedure in the future were now, wonderfully, gone forever.


Tea for Two,  plus 1”  –  Practical Learning for Life  –  by Roy Shirley ..

Prior to my second ward placement I had been forewarned that my new Charge Nurse was not very keen on having student nurses.
To start off on a good footing on my first shift with him – the advice was to get there early and make a good cup of tea ready for his arrival. I arrived on the ward for morning shift at 6.15 for 6.30 and was met by the Night Nurse who reiterated the previous advice.
When I heard the Charge Nurse coming on to the ward, I quickly boiled the kettle, put two tea bags into the pot, and sat waiting for him to come in to the ward kitchen. When he came in a minute later I poured the tea, sat down opposite, and waited for him to speak. . .
He poured some milk and put 2 spoonsful of sugar into the cup, took a sip of the tea. He looked over at me, then at the cup and then at the teapot. He picked up the cup and the teapot and poured their contents down the sink. . .
He refilled the kettle, boiled the water and poured some of the water into the empty pot. After waiting for about a minute he then emptied the water down the sink and put 3 new teabags in the warmed pot. Then he reboiled the kettle and poured the boiling water into the teapot. . .
Four minutes later he poured the tea into his cup, put his milk and sugar in and sat drinking his cuppa.
During all of this procedure he never spoke a single word to me.
After he had finished he looked at me and said “If you learn nothing else during your time on this ward, you will now know how to make a proper cup of tea, and I expect you to make tea like this every time.”
And I Did – and I Still Do – when I use a teapot – rather than making it in a mug.


Science v Religious Beliefs” – A Classroom experience  by – Doug Endean ..

How well we remember our training. The wonderful setting of Coton Hill Hospital with it’s tree lined driveway. It’s magnificent carved wooden beams and panels are a long way from the university campuses of today. I wonder if they have the characters in the class rooms that we had, both as students and lecturers.
I recall that as we progressed through the years we came to the subject of “evolution” taught to us by Tony McCoy.
Our class was a mix of old and young from various parts of the world and a  variety of religions.
As Tony got into the subject my friend Emile Martin, a Spaniard with strong traditional Catholic beliefs (except when it came to women) was not smiling, not smiling at all. The more Tony spoke of how man came from single celled creatures that lived in the soup of life the more Emile began to look uncomfortable. We progressed through time and reached that stage of our evolution, where as apes we wandered the planet.
Emile could take no more. He stood up, pointed at Tony and in a loud, very angry voice, shouted something like “Tony, you may have come from a monkey but I sure as hell did not”.
With that he stormed out of the classroom to the noise of laughter from those of us who found the whole thing really funny.


Washing up Quietly” Memories from my early start as a”- Cadet Nurse – by – Ian Ward ..

I recall starting on League of Friends Ward in November 1970 as a “Cadet Nurse” at the age of 17 1/2 being six months shy of the age to enter the School of Nursing.
I worked a Monday to Friday roster, 8.30am to 5pm or something like that and the two Charge Nurses were dear Alan Astle and the man from Cannock, Colin Wilkinson.
My duties were primarily making beds, toileting people, feeding and bathing people along with the Ward Orderlies, Jim Bickley and Emil Misikis (I’m sure that’s not spelled correctly). On more exciting days I got to administer enemas to poor unsuspecting patients and then help them scramble onto commodes.
It was a dynamic environment because I recall a woman by the name of Margaret who looked after the kitchen (dishes and meals etc) who in some manner was irritating Alan and he kept promising her that he would put her in the sink with the dishes if she did not quieten down.
She did not and Alan, a small but powerful guy simply picked her up and dropped her kicking and screaming into the sink with the dishes, it was at that time that I wondered what I had got myself in for, if this was the day to day activity.
Needless to say there were a lot of laughs about that, even from Margaret herself. Contrasting that activity, during the lunch break you could go into one of the offices there and have your hair cut by Phil McVay, or McCavity as he was known. I hope Phil does not mind me saying that, I know he lives quietly in my home village of Great Bridgeford these days.
League of Friends was a happy time for me, fun and a great introduction to the wonderful community of great people who were St. Georges.
Ian Ward – Adelaide


 “Taking a break” for  Milk Shakes and Biscuits – by Martin Garvey ..

I was a first year student on Chebsey Ward and it was quite common for staff to be”given the nod”, to slip off to a room on the corridor to Brocton Ward, for a quick,”unofficial break”, for milk shakes and biscuits. The door had a one-way handle, meaning that once inside no-one could “burst in” and discover the unofficial break going on.
This was particularly important because the one person unlikely to turn a “blind eye” to this was the rather serious and somewhat Draconian interpreter of rules, Nursing Officer Mr Cripps ( a man so strict – albeit commendably professional – that he didn’t seem to have a first name ! )
This went on regularly, and then on one of my last days on the ward, as it was a quiet afternoon and they thought that Mr Cripps was Probably off – site, the Charge Nurse and Staff Nurse both slipped away to the room leaving me “in charge” of the Ward.
Suddenly a voice said “afternoon Student Nurse Garvey, where is Mr Lago ? ” flustered I mumbled that I wasn’t quite sure and he then also asked the whereabouts of the second-in-command. I replied “er, toilet I think”.
“OK, I’ll wait” said Mr Cripps.
A short time later when they hadn’t reappeared, he said “they haven’t just gone somewhere else, or to the toilet have they ?”
I said “yes I think so” and he replied “why not just tell me they’re having a break in the room down the corridor  ?”
I said “which room down the corridor ?”
His reply……”the one my office looks straight down on – I’ve been watching you all for two years”…..!!!


(10/07/2015)   “A Statuesque Lady and a Somewhat-Smaller Man” – a Very Personal Experience – by Brian Simms …

Going off duty late one evening with Bill Sim and Larry Morrissey, hoping we would be in time for a quick pint at the Elephant and Castle, we bumped into Eddy Hood on the front drive. Finding out where we were going he told us that Matron, Miss Alan was having a Do in her quarters, and all the drinks and snacks were free. We were up for that and duly followed him back. It was true, there were plenty of drinks and food, together with music from a record player. The female staff were enjoying themselves chatting away and some dancing to the music.
Being the only men there, we had tucked ourselves away in a corner enjoying our free treats enthusiastically, – No problems, until the room went suddenly, totally quiet.
There she was in the centre of the room – Corrine, the larger than life, over the top, indomitable – Corrine Hollis.
Spotting us she shouted theatrically “Girls there are Men in Here”. Then she strode purposefully across the room towards us.
When face to face she said  “Well, who’s man enough to dance with me then”. The other women fell about laughing and when I looked round, my mates had all stepped back, leaving me standing there at the front like a lemon.
She looked down on me and said “Looks like you’ve been elected Darling”. I spluttered – “Ok, but I’m not really a dancer” – she took no notice. This tall, statuesque lady, mother figure and confidante to most of the female staff, but scourge of the male staff, just picked me up.
Clutched to her ample bosom, feet dangling in the air, – she waltzed me off with a huge laugh – dancing in a flamboyant swirl around the room.
It came to an abrupt dizzying stop, accompanied by a round of enthusiastic applause and laughter from Matron and all the other women.
Corinne turned to my mates saying  “He might be the shortest but he’s definitely the bigger man here tonight”.
Leaning down to me she whispered  “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you but now we will be friends forever ” – and that we certainly became.


(25/07/15)   An Uncomfortable Start – by Bill Sim . . .

My first day on the Wards as a Student Nurse, working 9 to 5 to get used to the routines, was on Male 1 (later League of Friends Ward) with Charge Nurse George Stokes. About an hour into my shift he gave me a clipboard and observations chart, telling me to record the pulse and temperature of an old man, in one of the side rooms. He told me that the patient would probably not talk to me when I approached him.
I went to his room, said hello, but as expected got no response from him. I placed the thermometer under his arm and while waiting for this to give a reading, started to check his pulse. I couldn’t find one. No matter where I placed my fingers on either of his wrists, still no pulse. After a while I was beginning to get more and more frustrated and began to wonder what, if anything, was I doing wrong.
Then the Staff Nurse looked in on me and asked how I was doing. I explained what was happening so he came in to the room. After he had taken a very close look at the patient he turned to me and said, ” No wonder you can’t find his pulse, the old man is dead”.
Well I felt very strange about this, as I had never even seen a dead person before let alone touched one.
Later that morning, after the formalities were done, the Staff Nurse prepared a trolley and asked me to assist him with laying the body out.
This was another first for me but we washed him all over, gave him a shave and tidied his hair. We dressed him in a shroud, made out two labels with details of his Name, Age and D.O.B. One of these we attached to his wrist and the other to a big toe. Unfortunately this old gentleman had no next of kin to inform so arrangements were made for him to be taken to our own Mortuary by the Portering Staff.
This was my baptism in Nursing.


(03/08/2015)   A Strange Dance – by Roy Shirley . . .

The year 1965, the month July, the date the 19th, I had left school 3 days previously, had the weekend off and was ready to start work as a stores porter at St. Georges Hospital.
I had gained the job following interviews, first with Deputy Chief Nurse Arthur Bolton, then with Deputy Stores Manager Gordon Gibbons. I had originally wanted to become a student nurse at the hospital, but following my first interview with Mr Bolton I was advised that I needed to wait until I was 18 years old, but in the interim 2 years I could be employed as a stores porter.
So on that warm July morning I left my home in Hednesford and caught the 7.00 am Midland Red Bus to Stafford. The bus arrived just before 7.30 and I walked through Stafford town centre to Gaol Square and up the long winding drive of St.Georges.
After finding out I had to clock in, I walked along the grey/ green corridors to the stores. This journey from exiting the bus to the stores door took only about 12 minutes. As I had been previously told the stores staff didn’t until start until 8.00 am, I stood in the corridor waiting for someone to let me in.
At about 7.55 a tall lad and a shorter lad came along the corridor. Both wished me “good morning” introducing themselves as Brian Hales and Ashley Logan. They said they were working during the holiday in the stores, awaiting their exam results.
After the introductions Brian took out his key and slowly opened the door to the stores. Before fully opening the door, he slid his right arm around the door, reached out for the light switches, and flicked them on. I looked mystified at Ashley who just smiled at me.
Before I could say a word, Brian dashed into the stores and started doing what I could only consider a strange dance.
As he was running about inside and stamping his feet every few paces, I just stood watching with a perplexed and worried look on my face. ‘What sort of place had I come to work in’.
After a few minutes this ‘dancing’ ceased and Brian went and got a dust pan and brush. Ashley explained that this was the first job of the day, to kill and sweep up the carcases of any cockroaches that didn’t manage to escape, getting trapped when the lights were switched on.

This dance I performed every morning for the next 2 years!


(17/08/15)   Whistling, Fire-Hoses and Perceived Reputations – by Brian Simms . . .

One morning, as a first year Student Nurse on Male 2 , on the second floor adjacent to the Chief Male Nurse’s Offices, I was sent on some errands to the Laundry/Stores etc. Happy to be off the Ward for a short time,  I ran down the stairs to the bottom corridor whistling to myself as I went. Turning the corner I nearly bumped into Mr Arthur Bolton, the Deputy Chief Male Nurse who I had never met face to face before. Upon this near collision he said ” Young man this is a Hospital, No running or Whistling here”, then he turned abruptly away back up to his office via the stairs. I was well aware that, behind his back, his Reputation was of being a “Strict, No-nonsense, Disciplinarian.”
Returning to the Ward somewhat chastened by the encounter, I discussed it with Charge Nurse Jack Bates who apparently, had already been told about it by Mr Bolton on his way back to the Office. He laughingly said to me  “Uncle-Arthur” – “He may appear to be stern in manner, but he’s a decent man really. Don’t worry about it , he is just establishing the status quo with a new face”.
Some time later as a Staff Nurse on the same ward, I had my second experience with Mr Bolton, on a Friday mid-morning.
Friday was the day when we had to test that the Ward Fire-Hose-Reels were working. We did this by putting the nozzle out of the kitchen window and discharging it to the empty airing court below. If the coast was clear, sometimes we had fun battles between adjacent ward staff, by aiming the hose towards a window where a colleague was testing his. This usually resulted in someone getting a soaking and having to mop up in their kitchen afterwards. This particular day I lost and got very wet. Mopping up in my soaked white coat, who should walk in – Mr Bolton.
Caught in the act, he was obviously less than pleased with me, saying sternly ” I see you have other talents as well as whistling through the Hospital corridors”. I couldn’t think of anything mitigating to say, and after looking at me thoughtfully for a little while, he continued
“Hmm I suppose it might just be that you, and Mr Johnson in Male 6, happened to misjudge your aims at the same moment in time”.
I breathed a sigh of relief as he turned on his heel to leave. His parting shot was, “I will expect this kitchen, yourself and the hose reel, to be spick and span before lunch”. I set to my chores vigorously, vowing to try and keep my nose clean in the future.
A few years later as a relief Charge Nurse, I was taking charge of the Male Admission Annexe, whilst the Charge Nurse was on leave. During the morning I answered the door to two Policeman, who wanted to interview a patient about some serious charges, insisting they see him sometime during the day. I told them that without his, and the permission of his Consultant, it was not allowed and sent them on their way.
I tried to contact the Consultant, messaging him a number of times via the switchboard, to no avail. Eventually he rang me and despite my explanation, said in an abusive manner, ” I am a Consultant and not on call for routine, day to day matters”. I agreed with him but said that, I thought the circumstances serious enough  to inform him direct, rather than via the busy the Junior Ward Doctor. He became more irate at this and threatened to report me to the Nursing Office before slamming the phone down on me.
A short while later, a seriously concerned Mr Bolton, rang me to establish my version of events. After listening to my explanation, he said “You were in the right and acted quite correctly. Don’t worry, leave it with me and I’ll sort it out.”
About ten minutes later the Consultant stalked into the ward and in a haughty, begrudging manner, said he would attend to the matter shortly. This apparently, was the nearest I would get to an apology, let alone any thanks from him.
I informed Mr Bolton about the result of his intervention, who after confirming that I was satisfied, said he would make an official  incident report of the Consultant’s behaviour.

From that day on, my Perception of his Reputation as a “Strict, No-nonsense, Disciplinarian”,  would include the words  “Fair and Supportive.”


An Unusually-Memorable Christmas Experience – Folklore ? Retold  by – Brian Simms . .

Most of the Patients enjoyed Christmas, another special marker in their yearly calendar and one which they looked forward to very much.
Despite the obvious enjoyment of going to the Panto in the Hall etc., they also enjoyed their Ward based activities including Christmas Dinner and Parties, highlighted by the cheerfulness of the Ward Decorations.
Every year Staff on most of the Wards made an attempt to put on a colourful and festive show of Christmas Decorations.
Some of the Patients also wanted to be actively involved and wherever possible would be recruited to help make and put them up.
Besides the decorations, a number of Wards provided something extra by having a particular Theme. There were Nativity scenes, Christmas Trees with Presents beneath, Santa and his Sleigh, Snowmen, and a variety of Table-top Tableaux etc.
In order to encourage and support their efforts, Hospital Managers did a tour of ward inspections to view them all, and decide who deserved the title of  ” Best Decorated Ward ”  for that year.
Added to this, there was also a strong element of competition going on, so each Ward tried to keep their plans secret up to the last minute, all hoping to stand out enough to win it that year.
Despite the extra work involved, especially in some of the higher dependancy Wards, most rose well to the task.
One late 1960’s Christmas, the Charge Nurse in League Of Friends Ward (Male One) decided to pull out all the stops to be the winner. He acquired a huge amount of decorations from somewhere, garlands, silver and gold foil streamers, lametta, balloons, paper chains and lots of chinese-type lanterns etc., you name it he’d got it. Many hung low like huge cobwebs, almost brushing heads. There were so many that the ward lights needed to be on to see your way around the Ward – no Theme here – just Universal Chaos.
The Judging Panel wandered the Ward with growing expressions of consternation and disbelief on their faces. They had none of the usual interaction with the Staff, no questions or expressions of appreciation, and left within less than 10 minutes.
Sublimely and totally unaware of the Panel’s collective impressions, the Charge Nurse asked the Chief Male Nurse as they were all leaving,
” Well what do you think then, are we in with a good chance of winning this year ? ”

The stony faced reply was – ” In with a chance ? In with a chance ? – Not bloody likely man – unless it was for the best dressed Bordello ! ”


(08/03/2016)   “Scrumping, Tobacco, and a Talking Dog” – by Brian Simms . . .

My first memories of these two Old Hospitals were growing up as a young boy and in to my teens from the late 1940’s through to the 1950’s.
Coton Hill bottom-lodge was only 100 yards from where my family lived at my Dad’s Corner-Shop/Betting Office, on Weston Road in Littleworth.
Hidden away behind a perimeter of woods and walls in grounds with winding paths through shrubbery, old trees and small secluded seating areas, it looked more like a mysterious old Manor-house than a Hospital. To us local klds it was a wonderful area to explore and  play in, especially the perimeter woods (The Plantation). There were lots of interesting looking outbuildings, just waiting to be covertly investigated and we found places where we could sneak in to the orchards for scrumping, delicious in-season fruit.
We  often saw Patients walking the paths or  relaxing on benches and occasionally saw Patients and Staff going to the Chapel on a Sunday.
We were tolerated, as known local kids, by most of the Hospital Staff, and some of the Patients wandering the perimeter, would acknowledge and/or wave to us. We were sometimes chased off, not by them, but by the zealous Head Gardener who would  threaten to report us. I was usually the unlucky one, as any such reports would inevitably be to my parents in the shop, resulting in my being grounded – banned for at least a week from all outings – Cinemas, Swimming Baths, Skating Rink etc. – purgatory.
In my teens, in a quiet, plantation glade, a special girl friend introduced me to a much more interesting experience of woodland activities – this on the pretext of, picking Celandines and other flowers, for her mother !
Some patients  came to the shop for tobacco, sweets and personal sundries, and were always pleasant to me and my much younger Brother.
One particular man often went around to our backyard first. He was apparently having long, serious conversations with my Dog about Politics, Religion and other Issues of the day. He would then come into the shop for his pipe tobacco and recount details of that days topics. He would say things like “he is a very intelligent Dog, he speaks well and is very knowledgeable about world affairs, we had a very enjoyable chat today”. Judging by my Dog’s focussed attention, he too liked these encounters, not least due to the extra Treats he was being given.
Other patients regularly walked down the road to the Newsagents, Post Office, Hairdressers and Chemist etc., or to catch a Bus into Town.
However we never saw any availing themselves of the tempting facilities in the two welcoming, Village Pubs !
There were a number of local customers who also came to the shop, to place discrete bets on the horses. Some of these customers were Staff from both Coton Hill and St George’s, who liked an occasional flutter. Off the Course, cash-betting being Illegal until 1961, there was always the possibility of a Police raid. However we had an early warning system, from On High. The sympathetic local Vicar would sometimes phone, saying “Look sharp, they are watching the shop from the Church grounds”. Knowing most of them, and them me, I was sometimes delegated to warn such customers off at the door.
We were also only five minutes away from St Georges, a much larger, busier Hospital, so not really a place for similar play etc. However we could take short cuts to and from town, picking conkers on the way along the Back Drive in season.
Near the Front Drive we sometimes watched cricket matches, St Georges Staff v Locals and Patients v Patients from other Hospitals. Though appearing to be semi serious matches, there was good natured banter between the teams and supporters, including us kids.
We mostly played along the Pearl Brook, between the Cricket Pitch and the Kingsmead Marshes, making rafts and navigating the brook like explorers, through the wild wetlands to Lammascote Road. Sometimes we would see a young woman riding a horse through the grounds, who would wave her riding crop angrily at us if seen. She was apparently a daughter of The Medical Superintendant.
Along with many local people, we also enjoyed a great day out visiting the Patients and Staff Garden Parties, Sports Days etc.
The distinctive old van with multiple PA System speakers on the roof, provided by Ralph’s Radio, was a regular fixture. Everyone looked forward to the fun of the side-stalls, competitions and fancy dress. This was a continuing tradition almost up to the closure of the old place.
I remembered many of these faces, Patients and Staff in both Hospitals, when I started my training  in 1961.


(08/02/2017)    A  Boilerman’s Dilemma– Folklore ? Retold  by – Brian Simms

The Photo of Boilers from the 1980’s on Place and People page, though very efficient, shows them to be much smaller than their predecessors. Replacement of major components, was always a large, logistical undertaking, especially in earlier years when they were much bigger.
Late-shift staff going off duty the back way towards Corporation Street, via the works yard, would often see and exchange greetings with the old night-duty boilerman.
On a light summer evening in the 1960’s some of those staff going off duty, were faced with a huge calorifier sitting on pallets, in the middle of the works yard. The old night boilerman was stood by the side of it, scratching his head, puffing like a chimney on his ancient pipe, and chuntering away animatedly to himself.
When asked what was the matter he became more agitated. “This was delivered and craned off a low-loader wagon late this afternoon.”
He said “I told the wagon driver that it should have been delivered tomorrow morning ready to be fitted during the day”
The wagon driver’s response was that the delivery had been made according to the schedule, signed off by his boss, and he couldn’t see what the boilerman’s problem was .
He told them “I’ve got enough work to do in the night, looking after my boilers, without having to keep an eye on this damned thing.”
The driver replied “It’ll be ok sitting there, until the engineers are ready to fit it, you don’t need to worry about it.”
The boilerman said I told them “Worry about it, worry about it, with all the pilfering going on around this place – If I don’t keep my eye on it – It’ll Be Gone by Morning.”


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