In 1929 Fassifern Private Hospital in William Street, Wingham became known as Carlyle Hospital; a residence transformed into a hospital.1 As a young woman, Phyllis Bidner joined the nursing staff in 1951 and had one week in which to make her two blue uniforms and cap.2
The life of a nurse in the 1950s was very different to that of now. Nurses were trained on the job and tasks included washing, cleaning and preparing meals. Nurses often did home visits and Phyllis was regularly transported in Mr Crompton’s taxi to check on treatments. She remembers one home near the butter factory where a child lay on corn bags and grey army blankets spread over a wire based bed, bags hung at the windows, and lice and fleas were rife; such was the poverty at the time.
Babies were delivered by the doctors or sister. One night Dr Erby wasn’t answering his phone so Phyllis ran from the hospital to his house several streets away to wake him. Mothers and babies stayed in hospital for weeks after giving birth. One nurse’s boyfriend who regularly visited at night would sit in the chair and rock crying babies to sleep enabling the sister next door to sleep undisturbed.3
At the time, women were required to give up work once they married. After three and a half years, Phyllis left Carlyle Hospital to marry in August 1954.4
Author: Barbara Waters
1 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 12 July 1929.
2 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 26 October 1951.
3 From an interview with Mrs Phyllis Murray nee Bidner, 1 September 2017.
4 Wingham Chronicle and Manning River Observer, 27 August 1954.
5 Image courtesy Wingham Museum – Wingham Private Hospital files.