Ann Ferguson

My older sister was already a nurse in Yorkshire and got the application forms for me and a friend; two of us went over together in 1957. Because we had done our schools certifications – Leaving Certs – we were allowed to start, because that was on the same lines as the O-Levels here. Some nurses that went over that didn’t have their certificates had to sit an exam before they would be taken on as nurses.

I remember going onto a ward once and a Sister saying to me, ‘Can you make a pot of char and put it in my office?’ In those days, you didn’t question what the Sister was saying, so I came out and I had to ask somebody else what it was she wanted. All she wanted was a cup of tea but I hadn’t a clue what a pot of char was.

We had some good times in the Nurses Home. They were strict on us going out. We were only allowed a late pass once a month but we had a way of keeping the fire escape open or something to get in at a later date.

Our uniform was grey and white as a student nurse and we wore aprons and fancy hats. You could tell the different years by the belts you wore; it was a white belt for a first year, a blue belt for a second year and a red belt for a third year.

I worked for many years in a hospice. It was one of the happiest times really because everything was so truthful. Everybody knew what their outcome was. There was no telling somebody, ‘Oh, you’ll get better in a few months’ or something like that. They knew it was terminal care.

In the 1950s/1960s, there were an awful lot of Irish nurses. Between the Irish and the Jamaicans, there would have been no National Health Service if it wasn’t for them.

Ann’s story was collected for the Irish Nurses in the NHS Oral History Project led by Prof Louise Ryan and Grainne McPolin, with Neha Doshi, London Metropolitan University.