Memories Of A Country Practitioners Wife 1950-1978 >
MEMORIES OF A COUNTRY PRACTITIONERS WIFE 1950-1978
(by Hazel MacIntosh)
When John, my husband, applied to become the doctor for Arrochar, Tarbet, Ardlui and was appointed to take over the practice which also included patients at Luss Glen, Crianlarich, some of Cairndow, I wasn’t too happy. I was a fairly new mother, my baby just 3 months old. I was quite happy in Alexandria, where John was assistant to Dr William Scott, and to me Arrochar was a really remote place. I was a ‘townie’, near my folks and friends in Glasgow, also there was no house for a doctor as the dwelling at Tarbet lived in by Dr Bernie was not to be available as it belonged to the Highlands and Islands Board and they did not want to let it again. However, fate took a hand and we were told that Stewartonbank in Arrochar was looking for tenants as the people in It worked at Loch Sloy and were moving out, so that is where we came. It was a strange feeling when I first went out in the Village, everyone knew who I was ‘the new doctor’s wife’ – of course I didn’t know anyone – although that soon changed.
Babs Ross was the first person who spoke to me, her baby Billy was about the same age as my baby Stewart. Very soon we were welcomed into the community with much warmth and friendship.
Sloy was still in process of taking shape and there were lots of engineers and their wives and families, plus workman’s camps at Inveruglus and over at Butterbridge after the Rest. There was a sickbay and daily surgery at the Sloy camp itself and a Red Cross Nurse – Nurse Menzies in charge – she was a keen bridge player and she and Angus McKay, the head forester and his wife Lis often came to have a game with John. There was a lot of socialising – the contractors had dances in the Hotels – ‘post affairs’ – evening dress – the whole thing and the local folk were so kind and friendly and hospitable. After surgery many an evening saw us, plus baby, in carry cot, out for evening supper. A message was attached to the front door, saying doctor could be contacted – changed days now with answering machines and mobile phones. Medicine was much more personal and friendly then and the doctor available day and night if need be.
Eventually Finlay, our second son, came along, born in Stewartonbank, the first baby to have been born there for a very long time.
We needed a larger home, and were lucky that Invereoch came on the market and we managed to buy it. It was a real thrill having a home of our own and we had many happy years there and I was sad when I eventually had to leave it.
Initially John was asked to stay 3 years but it became over 30!
Occasionally a call would come in to go to Lochgoilhead as the doctor there was a keen fisherman and was ‘unavailable’ at times. The little cottage at the top of the old ‘Rest’ road was lived in by an old brushman. There was also a patient at ‘The Doune’ across Loch Lomond, also a ‘character’ across Loch Long in a cottage near the entrance to Loch Goil both these places had to be visited by boat. The practice maybe didn’t have a huge ‘list’ of patients but it was far flung and varied.
The bairns came to join the family at Invereoch and it was a happy home.
There was so much humour in those days no one can ever sued the doctor – they did not have a choice of medical care, so maybe thought it wiser not to! Lots of fascinating people and patients were more like friends.
I always went to see the new babies when they came to the surgery and sometimes for a nervous mum, I took them to get vaccinated and immunised. It was a lovely practice, and when the phone rang you knew the voice and did not need to ask who it was.
There was music in the waiting room and one summer’s morning there was much hilarity drifting through to the surgery and when the door was opened one of the waiting patients – a real ‘character’ was doing a highland fling as it was Scottish dance music that morning. After the performance the entertainer returned to a seat and proceeded to have her breakfast, Bannocks wrapped in a napkin – ‘just go ahead Doctor’ she said ‘see these other folk and I’ll just finish my breakfast. There were a lot of visitors that day and they must have been intrigued at what took place at a rural doctor’s surgery.
There was such a lot of humour too – one elderly gentleman came complaining of a sore knee and when told it was probably caused by old age said ‘that’s funny doctor the other knee is the same age and it’s alright’. Don’t know what answer was given.
My husband had a prankish sense of humour and it sometimes got him into trouble. We had a great many visitors to Arrochar in the summer, temporary residents they were called when they came for medical attention. One day a rather plump blonde lady came in and sat down and said ‘I get so hot Doctor’ and without thinking the doctor said ‘I love hot blondes’ she burst out laughing and said ‘I feel better already’.
During the summer a lot of Glasgow folk came and camped in the field at the top of the Loch, they brought everything with them including the kitchen stove. Families came year after year and became well known at the doctors. Travelling people also became well known.
No TV in those days but lots of whist drives, concerts and dances. Times changed, medicine changed and so did the folks and with the changes something of the ‘old family doctor era’ changed as well. Sad really as its much more impersonal now everything much more sophisticated and much of the camaraderie of the old days lost.
I could go on and on, so many memories – happy ones – medicine so advanced now with so many spare parts replacing of hips, knees, hearts and a pill for everything but I remember fondly the good old days. A sign I’m afraid of my advancing years.
by Hazel MacIntosh