WORKING in Belfast in the mid 1960s, a puncture repair kit was as important to trainee midwife Jane Yeadon as her foetal stethoscope.
Atop her big black Raleigh bike, the 21-year-old pedalled her way to house calls across the city, helping bring babies into the world during increasingly troubled times.
For the young Scottish trainee, living in Belfast in the mid 60s opened her eyes to the tragic impact of a community divided.
However, Mrs Yeadon, of Forres, never regrets the day when, armed with her passport and nurses bag, she boarded the flight from Scotland to the Emerald Isle.
Speaking ahead of the launch of ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Midwife’, the mum-of-two said her latest book highlights the trials and tribulations of a year at the Royal Victoria.
“It was November 1966 and I was over there for a year,” Mrs Yeadon (67) said. “I’d always wanted to be a district nurse and in order to be a district nurse you needed to have your midwifery. I thought it would be exciting and a change. I was 21 and I really didn’t have a clue.
“But I’m awfully pleased I went. It was a brilliant time and they are a lovely, lovely people.”
The sequel to ‘It Won’t Hurt A Bit’, the book follows the young nurse’s encounters with the usual ‘glacial matron’, sees her trying to keep out of too much trouble, and learning the skills required to help deliver new life – including 12 piglets during a visit to Salthill, County Galway.
Thrown in at the deep end, she discovers that being a midwife is life in the medical fast lane, with very few straightforward births.
“I found each birth as miraculous as the last,” she said, “and there wasn’t a shortage of babies being born.”
“There were big families over there, not just the Catholic families but the Protestant families were big too. They felt very sorry for me because there was only two of us in my family.”
It was a time when birth control was, for many, a taboo and when unmarried mothers were considered scandalous.
The young nurses also saw first-hand how the local issues were beginning to tear the city apart.
“Our student accommodation overlooked The Falls Road, so we were in the heartland of Belfast you might say.
“You knew there were murmurings, but I wasn’t sure. Coming from Aberdeen, where I did my general nursing training, I’d never encountered religious bigotry to that extent.
“I was in a very, very different place and it really made me stop and think and, in a way, I suppose, be grateful for tolerance.”
Her abiding memories of the 12 months, however, remain of the warm and welcoming people and of taking her first steps in a career which she considers more of a calling. “I had nothing but respect for the women. They were having baby after baby, yet had such dignity,” she said.
Following further training in Edinburgh, Jane fulfilled her ambition to become a district nurse, eventually returning to Forres where she still lives with her husband.
Published by Black and White Publishing and priced at £9.99, the book will be launched at Forres’ Masonic Hall on March 25 as part of the Forres Writing Group’s Foreword event.