Thursday, 23 August 2012

The General Hospital

Julia Sullivan, known as Shelia, came to Leicester on Sept 13, 1955. She already had two sisters here: one was working as a nanny for an English family and the other, Eileen, was married to an Englishman, Eamon Snee.

Julia was one of eight children and the youngest of six girls. She was educated at the Convent school back home in West Kerry and longed to pursue her interest in horses. However, her father felt it was not a career befitting a convent educated girl and expected her to get something better.

When she first came to Leicester she lived with her married sister on Duxbury Rd, off Uppingham Rd and later moved into nurses’ accommodation at The General Hospital on the outskirts of the city near Evington. 

The General Hospital, Gwendolen Rd.

Coming from the country at home she loved living on the outskirts of town, as it was then, and hearing the animals and horses in the morning. The new Goodwood Estate had been built but not yet around the General Hospital where you could still see working farms.

Shelia earned £7/17/6d a month and the highlight of the month  was going to Brucciani’s on Horsefair St. for coffee and cherry cake. She could also buy a new skirt in M+S for 29/11d and a blouse for £1!

She loved to go dancing at the “Irish venues”: Sacred Heart, The Co-op Belgrave Rd, The Trade Hall  St. James’ St., St. Peter’s parish hall on King Richard’s Rd and the Corn Exchange (which she remembered didn’t have a bar). And of course there was always De Montfort Hall on St. Patrick’s night. She and the other nurses would search the drawers for odd 3d. bits at home to give them the money to get in to the dances. 

Sheila belonged to the Pioneer Association, a Catholic temperance group, and she had taken a pledge not to drink. She kept this till she was 23 when at a nurse’s party she held onto the same drink all night so that the others wouldn’t keep on at her!.

The nurses had an English lady, May, who looked after them in the nurses' home and lived on St. Saviours Rd. She treated them all well and the girls would bring her back presents from Ireland when they went home. Sheila remembers May having a particular present from Ireland with Irish writing on it that said…Made in Japan!

One year there was a polio epidemic back home in the National schools and Shelia’s mother told her not to go home for the annual holiday in September. Sheila was given permission to take her holiday ay Christmas which was unheard of. She travelled back with another nurse, Mona Carey from County Clare, and turned up at Holyhead without a ticket and had to wait two days with no food to get a ferry home. When she arrived in Dublin she was due to stay with another nurse, Marie before carrying on home to Kerry the next day. This arrangement fell through and Marie arranged for Sheila to stay with a blind friend. Sheila spent a long night worrying if the friend would be able to wake her up on time in the morning….. which of course she did!

Sheila says that most people at home in West Kerry were self sufficient and lived a much better life that the city people: city life in Leicester was new to her and she had never had chips or seen a Brussel sprout!

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