Mae Appleton

© Lee Appleton

My friend Tanny and I arrived at Heathrow and had to make our own way to the hospital. We didn’t know anything about England or the currency. When we got to the hospital, we found out that Park Prewett was a psychiatric hospital. We thought it was a general hospital! And Tanny and I looked at each other and thought, we don’t have a clue about psychiatry. We were both midwives.

We had our own room but we couldn’t sleep because it was very cold. We left the Philippines in the 30s and 40s and we came in here and it was below zero or something like that. I was crying because I couldn’t get warm and then I had to wear socks, pyjamas and a hat and gloves in bed.

© Lee Appleton

On the first day we looked very smart. We wore white stockings, white shoes and my uniform was white. We brought our own uniforms from the Philippines.

We did some practical and written training in the little annex school in the grounds, like how to dress the patient’s sores, how to protect yourself. When you had more understanding of mental illness, you could go on the ward. At first we were just assisting because we were training. They were impressed with us because we really worked hard – whatever they made us do we didn’t complain.

© Lee Appleton

That photo of me in the red dress – I love that dress! I made it – I was receiving a certificate for my exams.

I felt like an ambassador because most of the people had no idea what the Philippines was like. They thought it was like Japan or China. I felt proud that we were introducing our culture with our dances. We used to make our own costumes.

© Lee Appleton

We made friends with the Filipino nurses that were there before us and the ones that came after us. The nurses had connections with people at different hospitals around the country so we just travelled in groups to visit them at other hospitals in Poole and Dorset. We travelled to the seaside because we were missing it.

By the time I moved to the second hospital I still had lots of Filipino friends but we were all educating ourselves and adjusting to the way of life here, so we were distancing ourselves doing our own things in different ways. But we were still a group that cooked together and went out together but we were not as close as when we were new in the country.


I wasn’t really thinking what was ahead. My plan was just to stay for two years and maybe go back or go somewhere else. I didn’t plan on getting married and staying here. 

I met my husband when we worked together on B ward. That’s us in my nurses room!

I spent most of my career after that on a geriatric psychiatric ward until I retired. I was quite happy being a nurse and quite happy looking after people.