Rod McCully


January 1969 opened a new chapter in my life, one which was to leave indelible memories. After taking the GNC (General Nursing Council) entrance exam and interviews it was time for this young teenager to embark on an exciting journey. There were 12 pupils in our PTS (preliminary training school). The majority of us lived in nurses accommodation at either Dolawen Nurses’ Home on the promenade in Rhyl (now demolished, it was sited on the opposite corner to the Westminster hotel) or like myself we were collected by Ken Davies and transported by taxi car from the Nurses Home at Abergele Hospital. Our initiation started at 8am on the 6th January in the School of Nursing which was housed in the basement of Dolawen Nurses Home. The classroom was decked with internal organs and foetuses in various stages of development, swimming in formalin filled sweet jars. During the weeks that were to follow we were taught how to make a bed, how to move and turn patients to relieve pressure sores, how to feed patients and we were given our first introduction into the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Our PTS contained the names of Cindy Cross, Susan Roberts, Pam Jones, Barry Jones, Brian Dunt, LouiseGlover, Buddig Jones, Ann?, Sister Clare (Judith Evans), AN Other, Rhiannon Jones and myself. Only Rhiannon and I completed the training at Rhyl, passing our hospital and state finals to become  SRN (state registered nurse).

My first assigned ward as a student would be Duke, a male surgical ward with 12 beds in the main Nightingale layout, 5 balcony beds for convalescing patients and 2 private side wards. The ward sister was Sr Dilys Evans, the staff nurse was Alma Cairnie the consultant was Mr Owen Morris Jonathan and more importantly the cleaner/maid was Rose. Jock Stewart was the ward orderly, David Jones male SEN, Katie Jones was night auxiliary, Annie Walsh was her equivalent on Hesketh Ward. Duke ward was the perfect start to my nursing career. We worked 42 hours per week and as a student nurse you were expected to work either an early or a late shift on each Sunday. Every week we worked one or more of the following shifts: 7.30am-5pm.  7.30am-9am, returning at 1.45pm-8pm.  7.30am-1pm, returning at 5pm-8pm.  7.30am-1pm. Night duty shifts began in our second year. Annual salary started at £380 and pay for the month was about £12.10 shillings after board, lodgings and deductions.

Living in the Nurses Home was nothing but good fun. Doors to the home were locked at 11pm and if we wanted to arrive home after that time a request had to be made and it was certainly not always granted. Bed linen was changed weekly but we were expected to keep our own rooms clean and tidy. The communal bathroom was functional but it was wise to clean off the tide mark left on the bath by the previous occupant. We sometimes cooked an extra snack for ourselves and John Redmond was famed for his Spanish omelette. Pints of proper full cream milk were kept half hidden downstairs, this nourished the likes of John Clarke (BTS staff nurse) and me on many evenings.

Very few had their own transport but cars were one of my passions and I was the proud custodian of a 1938 Austin Big 7. The car had a large and heavy metal sliding sunroof and one windy evening driving along Rhyl promenade with a cargo of giggling nurses the sunroof blew off. Astonishingly it was never found. On the evening of Tuesday July 1st 1969, student nurses Alan Roberts, Jenny Wallwork, Pat Roberts and I set off in the faithful Austin to join in the evening celebrations of the Prince of Wales Investiture, the route would take us through Colwyn Bay, Mochdre, Conwy, Penmaenmawr, Llanfairfechan, Bangor on to Caernarfon along the old ‘A’ roads. To add senseless frivolity to the journey we had actually removed the rear doors of the car, leaving Pat and Jenny huddled under a travel rug. On our return in the early morning we had to enter the Nurses Home without detection from Sister Needham(night Sister) through what was known as the ‘Bat Hole’ in the basement, and so to bed ready for another early start.

Entering the RAH (Royal Alexandra Hospital) through the front revolving doors was an event in itself. The sound of that rotating oak door on a mosaic floor mixed with the reassuring aroma of disinfectant, you knew you were about to embark on another day of ‘happy healing’. We would first go to the dining room to have breakfast served by ladies who treated us like family: Megan, Olive, Pat, Phyllis, (there were designated tables for each tier of staff) and then up to your ward to greet your patients and surreptitiously learn a little more about them whilst chatting, cleaning and ‘damp dusting’ around their beds and lockers. Canon Collins, who visited the hospital at 6am virtually every day of the year arriving each morning on his moped would be just about ending his tour of all the wards, all the patients and all the staff, blessing each of us regardless of denomination. Staff of all disciplines were extremely proud of their hospital and the care given. Patients too were extremely proud and grateful of the care given to them and it wasn’t at all unusual to gracefully receive gifts, given with heartfelt thanks following their hospital stay. Beds would be made, with every counterpane at equal length and every pillow opening facing away from the ward entrance. Before 9am the sterilizer in the treatment room would be puffing out its steam and if you were chosen by Sister to accompany her on the dressings round it was a great honour. Gloves were not worn and sterility was maintained by aseptic technique using cheatle forceps first taught to us in the School of Nursing. Theatre days on the surgical wards were extra busy. On Duke ward, Jock would have all the listed patients prep’d and shaved ready for surgery. If a patient was destined for a vagotomy and pyloroplasty they would be shaved from chest to groin. Pre med’s of omnopon and scopolamine would start to be administered prior to the arrival of either Albert, Terry or Arthur the theatre porters. In the theatre anaesthetic room you could be lost in a fog of pipe tobacco smoke from Dr Khalil (anaesthetist). Scrubbed and waiting would be Sr Knowles, Sr Scott, Sr Pye, Beryl or ‘Dad Davies’. In the evenings in theatre we would help Norma and Beryl to make  ‘Pom poms’ .  On return from theatre there would be the inevitable clatter of stainless steel vomit bowls with their lids off and on concealing a soup of bile. These would later be scrubbed clean along with the bedpans, by us juniors and glass urine bottles would be bleached clean. Brows would be sensitively mopped until the patients’ groans developed into speech.At lunchtime Sister would take up her position and decide each patient’s dietary requirements serving each individual meal. After lunch any convalescing patient would make and serve teas. Visiting times were strictly 7pm till 8pm.Thursdays and Sundays had afternoon visiting,  giving opportunity for us to make up dressings, clean thermometers and tidy the ward. My other placements during training were on DA medical ward,  Murray Brown ‘top med’, which included the newly opened coronary care unit where patients were nursed supine for 24 hours a day and fed, watered and toileted for a week before being allowed to gently mobilise.

During my second year I was seconded to the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh. Male 5 was my first ward with Mr Ennis SEN, Noel Jones and Gwilym Pierce in charge. I lived in the Nurses Home along the entrance drive. On Wednesday nights Rheinallt Parry (RMN student) and I would walk to the bottom of town and crawl the pubs until eventually arrivingback, whenever. It was early summer 1970 and there was an outcry when Wrexham lager rose from 1/9d to 1/11d a pint. My second placement in Denbigh was Gwynfryn ward with Wally Ellis in charge.

Childrens ward followed and it was clearly understood by all, that the ward was no place for parents to be other than at visiting times. My time on the male orthopaedic ward in Abergele hospital was particularly enjoyable. There could be no better leader than Mr Emlyn Roberts with his faithful crew of nurses; John (no monkey business) Nagy, Noelle (the Countess) Williams and Mary Brew. However the best was yet to come.The trauma/orthopaedic unit at the PEWMH (Prince Edward War Memorial Hospital) was for me, special. The work was lively and stimulating, the team worked together, it was interesting and there was plenty to learn. After qualification and working on surgical and medical wards in the RAH for 12 months, I was accepted on the Advanced Operating Theatre course at the Hammersmith Hospital London. On return, I took up a post in the accident and emergency department at the PEWMH  and was offered the post of Charge Nurse night duty moving on to work closely with Dr Pal, Mr Lewis, Mr Hubbard and Mr Corkery in the trauma theatre. I left the PEWMH in June 1979 and after 17 years with  health care company Molnlycke, returned  to the accident and emergency department at YGC (Ysbyty Glan Clwyd) in July 1996. During the interim years I  worked ‘bank nurse’ shifts  at YGC.