Josie Caulfield

When my brother was little, an ambulance came to take him to hospital. I remember the ambulance pulling into our street and I saw this nurse sat in the front and I thought, ‘What a wonderful job. I would love to do that.’ I was only seven or eight years old at the time, but that thought kept in my mind. I kept telling my mum, ‘I would like to be a nurse.’

In June 1958, I set off by myself on the train to Dublin which I’d never been to before. I made my way to the North Wall to get the boat to Liverpool. If I think about it now, I hadn’t a clue. I was very naïve.

Somebody must have been watching over me because I met a lady as I was walking off the boat and she asked me where I was going. I said I was going to Leeds and she was from the Catholic Nurses Guild, would you believe it?

When the nursing school started, we had to go to Harrogate, which was 20 miles outside Leeds. We stayed in the School of Nursing for three months and we were treated very, very well but treated as children. Lights out at 10:00pm and in the morning we’d be up, strip our beds, then sit down for breakfast. Back up to our bedroom, make our beds up and then go down for an hour cleaning before lessons started.

I worked in A&E for 30 years. I feel very lucky to have the career that I’ve had. Working in A&E you really see life – the good and the bad in people. It’s an eye-opener sometimes when you work there but I enjoyed the experience. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to work in A&E and to make such a difference. When I’d go there to work at night I used to think, ‘I’m responsible for the whole of the accidents in Leeds tonight, I’m responsible for all that.’

Josie’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