WE all have a reason to be grateful for nurses and today is all about a celebration in their honour.

It’s International Nurses Day, which gives us here at Times Past HQ an excuse to talk about some of the great women who have graced Glasgow hospitals over the centuries.

Hard to imagine, especially in this year of all years, that nursing as a career did not command much respect until the middle of the 1800s.

As Florence Nightingale put it, nursing was left for “those who were too old, too weak, too drunken, too dirty, too stupid or too bad to do anything else.”

The history of nursing detailed on Glasgow University’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing website explains the city was at the forefront of advances in medical care.

Today is International Nurses Day

Today is International Nurses Day

It says: “While Joseph Lister was developing his system of antiseptic surgery in Glasgow, there were further innovations in patient care in the wards of the Royal.

“The first steps were taken to improve the training of nurses and the calibre of women entrusted with nursing duties. ....and were very much due to the energy and determination of Mrs Rebecca Strong, the Matron.

“The Infirmary’s new regulations in 1893 required reasonable evidence of educational attainment before nursing applicants could be accepted.

“Candidates had to take a preliminary formal examination or produce Leaving Certificates from the Scottish Education Department. Once accepted into the training school, probationer nurses received a more thorough and technical education than that which was currently offered even in the most respected of British Training Hospitals.”

A sister advises a student on how to carry out injections.

A sister advises a student on how to carry out injections.

The most famous Glasgow nurse is probably the woman most of us had not heard of until the start of the pandemic – Louisa Jordan.

Born in July 1878, in Maryhill, she worked at Shotts Fever Hospital and then moved to the small mining community of Buckhaven to become a Queen’s Nurse (District Nurse).

Louisa signed up to serve at the Scottish Women’s Hospitals on December 1, 1914 and worked at the 1st Serbian unit in Kraguievac, around 100 miles south of Belgrade. At the time, Serbia was short of medical facilities, so the work was busy and distressing. In February, typhus broke out, an epidemic which was to claim 150,000 lives in six months. Because of her experience in Shotts, Louisa was assigned to the new fevers ward.

Sadly, she died of typhus on March 6, 1915, age 36. She is buried in Serbia.

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Dame Katherine Watt was a butcher’s daughter from Glasgow, born in 1886. She trained in general nursing here in the city and midwifery in London before being posted to a field hospital in Flanders in the First World War.

She served as matron-in-chief in the Air Ministry until 1938, when she moved to the civil service, remaining there for the rest of her working life.

As chief nursing officer from 1941 to 1948 she was involved in plans for the new National Health Service. Later, she became chief nursing adviser, travelling as the government’s representative to Commonwealth countries, advising them on the role of nursing in the NHS. The first nurse to be given a permanent post in the civil service, she received many honours and was made a dame in 1945.

Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 50s. Pic: Herald and Times

Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 50s. Pic: Herald and Times

Our archives have many images of Glasgow’s nurses at work in the city – like this shot of four young women in the 50s, enjoying a well-deserved cup of tea, and an image of a sister at Glasgow Royal Infirmary instructing a student nurse how to administer an intermuscular injection.

Times Past would love to hear from nurses who have worked in the city over the decades – get in touch with us by emailing ann.fotheringham@glasgowtimes.co.uk