Surgical Ward Sister - 50's Style

black and white stair[Names withheld at the author’s request.]

I became a Ward Sister in RIE in 1954. At that time you didn’t apply for the job – it was offered to you! I was then interviewed by the Chief Surgeon and eventually my appointment was confirmed.

Read more: Surgical Ward Sister - 50's Style

1964 Ward 47 Christmas Party

"1964 Christmas Concert Party in Ward 47 (Dermatology) RIE" submitted by Agnes Gill (Gilly) - January 1970 PTS


More than 40 years after this photograph was taken I was approached at the Pelican League AGM by lily Morris nee Smithson and asked "Are you the wee girl in the kilt?"  She was one of the Sisters in t

he Dermatology Unit (Skins Wards 47 & 48) when this photograph was taken and I am the girl 3rd from the left in the front row holding a balloon.
I was 12 years old at the time with no ambition to be a nurse but did desperately want to learn the ballet version of the Skater's Waltz as that involved a pretty costume in red velvet with fur trim and a muff.
The other Sister in the unit, Helen Bradley, is also in the photograph with staff and patients from both wards.
Maybe visitors to the website can identify more people than I can!
The names I remember are Mary Gill, my mother, and Violet Klazura (Nursing Auxiliaries}, Pop Stoddart (Orderly),
Staff Nurse Wallace, ? Professor Percival and Alex Robertson, a patient.

Memories received from our most senior Pelican


Heather Collet visited Sister Ross in 2016 and  these are some of the letters and memories she shared about her time as Theatre Sister  in Ward 20

The full interview will be published in the 2017 Pelican Journal, The Pelican, due to be published in the Spring 2017. 

Rossie passed away peacefully, on June 17, 2018, in her 109th year, after a long and contented life.

To Sister Ross from Professor Dott

Letter from Professor Dott to Sister Ross

"3 Chalmers Crescent, Grange Road, Edinburgh 9

7th January 1948

Dear Sister Ross

How nice of you to write me about the C.B.E and please thank the others for their kind thoughts. I am naturally very pleased, but especially so on account of the whole team. We have all been in it together and the honour is meant as a mark of favour for what we have all helped to do.

I am very pleased too about 'Mr A' - it wasn't quite a surprise for me. He is very competent now to take this important job - we cannot keep all the eggs in one basket! He needs an important job on his own to make the best use of the second half of his act actual life. We can be proud of him for it is the best new job available so far. Mr A comes from Bristol so its nice that way too. Probably his chief ? is in the education of his family which would be easier and better in Edinburgh

As a patient - equally as a performer - I prefer Neuro to Orthopaedic Surgery! The job is a good one, and I get up on crutches tomorrow - of course I have old experience of crutches. I expect I shall get home in a few weeks but won't get very far afield until bones are fairly secure.

I am writing this flat on my back in Colin Gledhill's beautiful teak bed - desk. It's excellent - how he could get it so good in every detail without formal experience - I marvel. It was very kind and thoughtful of him. Ask him if he got the lovely timber from an old ship's deck on the Forth. I went apprentice to a country joiner when I was 13 - so I have a fondness for good wood.

I heard from Batkin in N.Y. - he says it is a land of plenty - even in snow (they had 23 inches within one day)!

I also heard from a N.surgeon over there whom he has interviewed for a job. I knew him when he was over with USAAMC and liked him very much. So Stanley may land fortunately. The good soul thinks of nothing but what he can send us all back here

A good New Year to you Sister Ross


Norman M Dott

The Mr A Dott talks about is Mr George L Alexander"


1952 Urgent Request

Letter from a medical colleague to Rossie.

"6th July, 1952

My dear Rossie,

Could you send me at your earliest convenience or even earlier, a U shaped glass cannula of the type used for insertion into the radial artery at arrteriotomy, and with it the information about source of supply - or did we have them specially made or blown for us.  Don’t tell me you get them from Young’s!  I have just spent a particularly blasphemous day showing Mr. Calvert and the anaesthetist here how to do an arrteriotomy.  The result was a resounding success in that the pressure stayed at 80 throughout, the brain shrank away and pratically fell down the foramen magnum, and the angioma which was the subject of attack was removed with comparative ease, but what I could not tell you about the type of needles polythene tubes and cannula that should not be used would be not worth printing (not to mention unprintable).  Thanking you, as they say, in anticipation, because we have another very similar one to do shortly.

I haven’t a great deal of exciting news for you.  I have an even harder job here to get started at 0930 than I had with you.  After an immense amount of chivvying I got under way last Friday at 10 a.m. but half an hour later is about the usual mark.  However hey tell me that persistent dripping wears away a theatre sister, so I intend to drip.  My principal difficulty here is that when I get a mask on no one knows what the hell I am saying.  As I understand them equally well, mild confusion frequently results.  Even my pantomimic hand gestures are imperfectly understood.  Who, by the way makes the long angled forceps for the Chief.  I am struggling away meanwhile with a pair of things initially designed for packing ears and I don’t like it.

In general there is loads of work to be done here.  Compared with Edinburgh so far, more heads and less backs.  I like the people very much and life is pleasant if busy.

My regards to sister Yule and such of the girls and boys as may be left.  My special salutations to yourself.

                                Yours persistently,

I saw your hemispherectomy the other day.  He is improving.  Tell Mr. Gillingham I shall be reporting about him in due course."