Johanna Walsh

Johanna Walsh at Park Prewett Hospital. Photo courtesy of Geraldine Walsh

“It was hard work with long hours in Psychiatric nursing. I went into mental health nursing; I loved working with the patients. The hospital was Park Prewett Hospital in Basingstoke, Hampshire.


It must have been around 1955, but I can’t be exact about when I arrived in England. I came from Waterford in Southern Ireland. I was the third youngest of nine siblings.

Originally there were 13 of us but sadly the other four siblings never reached adulthood. My mother also died when I was four years old from septicemia, gained from a small cut on her finger – there was no free health care then.

We lived on a farmhouse and pretty much grew all the food we ate – this enabled us not to be so much affected by the war.

I spent some time in hospital as a child with Tuberculosis – strange to say that I enjoyed my time in hospital. There are scars at both sides of my neck from the operations to remove fluid from the infection.



Photo courtesy of Geraldine Walsh

It was common to make your own clothing or have them made for you. I knew of a wonderful dressmaker in Waterford. Adorned with pictures from magazines, I would show her what I wanted, often a cocktail borrowed from different styles – she would make them for me. One of these dresses I had at Park Prewett – many of the nurses took turns to wear it just for a photo!

This year I celebrated my 90th birthday. I was born in 1930. I enjoy the health care provided by the NHS – without it I am sure many of us would have had shorter lives and most likely less quality health.

Most of my life has been spent living in England now. However it hasn’t always been a bed of roses. There have been many challenges. I remember the days when ‘No Blacks, no Irish and no dogs’ adorned housing with rooms to let. Alongside other issues too – it was very difficult if you were an unmarried mother.

I am glad that this time has gone, but there is no freedom that can ever be taken for granted. Fortunately, there were many people here who had open hearts and minds to accommodate us. I have no regrets and have had many happy years.

Johanna Walsh at Park Prewett Hospital. Photo courtesy of Geraldine Walsh

Photo by Edward Walsh of Johanna Walsh. Photo courtesy of Geraldine Walsh.

Conversations with my mother, Johanna Walsh, on her time nursing 

– Geraldine Walsh