A WHOLE “family of NHS heroes” from Coatbridge starred in an emotional episode of The Repair Shop this week.

Bill McDonald, who was a mental health nurse for 38 years and recently retired from his job as a Glasgow Caledonian University lecturer, wanted to see if the show’s experts could return an old oak desk to its former glory.

It was part of the BBC show’s 75 Years of the NHS special.

Bill, who worked in GCU’s nursing and community health department for 18 years, travelled to West Sussex, where the show is filmed, with his wife Kate – a retired stroke service administrator - and daughter Fiona, an occupational therapist.

Glasgow Times: Bill in 1987Bill in 1987 (Image: Bill McDonald)

The desk has been in the McDonald family since 1986 when Bill rescued it from Gartloch Hospital in Gartcosh, where he trained as a mental health nurse. It became a family treasure where Bill, Kate, Fiona and her brother Lewis all studied over the years.

Bill said: “The desk means a lot to our family, it is really precious and to see it restored like that is absolutely wonderful. It was already a bit battered and bruised when I brought it home in 1986 and it’s been through the wars since then. 

“That desk is where I sat when I studied for my final-year nursing exams, and then, as the family grew, my kids Fiona and Lewis used it for their homework, and Kate has used it for studying too. The desk was my classroom all through COVID-19 and I always used it for marking.

Glasgow Times: Bill at GCUBill at GCU (Image: Bill McDonald)

“We are so immensely proud of what Fiona does and we really wanted her to have the desk and to keep that NHS tradition going. The desk will be there to witness her journey just like it’s been with us through our journey. I wanted Fiona to have my nursing badge that I got when I graduated so it can live in the drawer as a wee memento.”

The McDonald family went down a storm in the Barn with furniture restorer Will Kirk and the crew, who were thrilled to have them on the show.

Will said: “They were one of my favourite families – they were so proud of Fiona. It was an utter pleasure to help transform the desk for them – especially because of the special meaning behind it.”

Glasgow Times: The desk has been in the family for more than 35 yearsThe desk has been in the family for more than 35 years (Image: Bill McDonald)

Bill and his family say they don’t see themselves as NHS heroes, however.

“The NHS is something that’s always been there for our family whenever we have needed it and, as someone who worked in the NHS for many years, having the opportunity to support people when they were at their most vulnerable has been the biggest privilege of my life,” said Bill. “It has been the best career ever.

“To get the chance to work in the NHS for us was such an honour and a privilege, so being able to celebrate the 75th anniversary with the BBC Repair Shop team has really been a very special experience for us. The entire Repair Shop team have been absolutely brilliant and we can’t thank them enough.”

Since Bill and Kate retired they have travelled around the UK in a campervan and spent more time caring for their parents with dementia. They also love entertaining care home residents with concert tours. Bill plays the ukulele while Kate sings.

Bill added: “I really miss my colleagues at Glasgow Caledonian. I loved my job. We were a great team and the number of students and families that said they chose to come to the University because the nursing admissions staff were so friendly and helpful was incredible.”