Nurses have colourful stories

01:28, Feb 27 2014
Balclutha Nurses
Balclutha nurses participate in a graduation ceremony in the 1950s.
Balclutha Nurses
One of the old photographs of Balclutha nurses being added to the South Otago Museum's digital archives.
Balclutha nurses
The Balclutha Hospital.

The nurses who trained and worked in Balclutha Hospital sure can tell stories about their adventures.

Young men shimmying up drain pipes to visit their sweethearts, militaristic matrons in dressing gowns lurking on the stairs to catch out those sneaking in past curfew - it would be a shame for these tales to be lost to time.

At least, that's the thinking of a new collaboration between the South Otago Museum and the organisers of a reunion for registered nurses who worked at Balclutha Hospital.

Southland Times photo
Nurses, from left, Ethel Mclaren, Helen Huddleston and Edna Geddes reminisce about their time at Balclutha Hospital with South Otago Museum curator Gary Ross.

South Otago Museum curator Gary Ross said the reunion, to be held on March 8, was a catalyst for collecting the objects and experiences of the nurses who trained and worked at Balclutha Hospital.

The hospital, opened in 1926 and closed in the 1990s amid heated protest, served as an A grade training centre for nurses.

Hundreds of young women - only a handful of men ever trained as nurses at the facility - lived and worked in the buildings, connecting with the community and creating colourful anecdotes under the watchful eyes of formidable matrons.


Mr Ross hoped the reunion would inspire former nurses, or the children of former nurses, to dig out their old "shoeboxes of information" and bring them down to the museum to be added to the digital archives.

Already, the community had loaned the museum the OBE medal earned by Matron Rita Anderson, one of the most well- known matrons who helped cement the reputation of the hospital, as well as a colourised photograph of her and a portrait painted by a contemporary artist.

The uniform and work bag of another matron, Nancy Gawn, who served in the Mediterranean during World War II, would be displayed on a mannequin from Te Papa as a special exhibit, Mr Ross said.

Former nurse Ethel Mclaren said the reunion and the involvement of the museum was a way to remember the contribution of the hospital and nurse training centre.

"I really feel this is good, because so many people have forgotten there was a hospital here."


The Southland Times