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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen
Tynemouth Victoria Infirmary
Out on a ledge
It was then that I started working at the Tynemouth Infirmary less than ten minutes walk from Silkey's Lane, though I lived in. My job was corridor maid and I had to look after the nurses' quarters in the new buildings, and once or twice a week clean out the maids' rooms in the old buildings. The rooms were very old; they were attics with their windows high up on the roof. The outside of the windows never got cleaned, for the only way to do it was to climb out the window and shut yourself out, then hope to be able to get back in when finished. I remember one of the maids who slept in the room next to mine, which I shared with a girl called Lily. She was called Peggy Crosbie and she was forever harping on about the filthy state of the windows, which looked no better after the insides were cleaned, because of the state of the outside. Her grizzling must have got on my nerves, because one day I decided to climb out and try to clean them. I got out, shut the window, and could only kneel on the roof with my toes in the guttering, which must have been so old it would be ready to give way. I was scared stiff and straight opposite when I turned round was the window of the maternity ward, with a nurse and a patient (who happened to be Mrs Fagan in with her third child, David) and they were beckoning me to get inside. I had not known Mrs Fagan was a patient until then. I went to see her later and I mentioned how I came to be doing the windows; she said "Let the girl do them herself if she is so keen to have them clean", and I realised what a risk I'd taken, for it was a very high building.
My wages were £1.19.2 one month and £1.19.10 the next: the difference was something to do with the stamps on my card for insurance or when unemployed; I'm not sure now. I gave Mam the pound and I kept the rest to clothe myself and for other expenses. It meant saving a long while to get anything like a coat. Fortunately, small things and shoes were not expensive.
I had two evenings and a half day a week off. I had to take over the doctors' and Matron's maid's duty when she was off duty. Two nights a week I had to take over the telephone job because the office girl worked only a 9am to 5pm, five days a week. After I had been there for a few months, Laura Crow, the doctors' and matron's maid left and I was put into her position. There were two doctors, sometimes three and they seemed to stay only for a few months then move on. I think they came straight from Medical School to the Infirmary; then from there, they tried to get into partnership in a private practice.
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