Can you introduce yourself please?
Hi. My name is Joan Woods. I’m sixty-one years of age. My association with Lennox Castle is that I went to work at Lennox Castle. In November 1968, I did my training there as a learning disability registered nurse qualifying in April ‘72. It was my mum actually, who sort of careered me into that area of nursing. My mum started in Lennox Castle Hospital in March 1966 and that’s the reason the both of us have this attachment to Lennox Castle Hospital.
How many years in total did you work there?
Oh, goodness me. Nearly nineteen, twenty years. In the learning disability sector altogether, probably nearer thirty-three, thirty-four years.
Can you describe what your experience was like at Lennox Castle Hospital as a nurse?
I found it a wonderful place to work … they had the social department organising bowling and football and dances and numerous other activities. I only have good memories, excellent memories - the older staff, a lot of whom are now not with us, and the high standards of care that they gave working in the wards.
When did your mum start? Was it the mid-sixties?
My mum worked in a day ward which was in the paediatric unit; it was a very, very busy, fast-paced ward… difficult to work in. She thoroughly enjoyed it and was always very professional working with the children. I thought about that myself actually… I worked in it when I qualified and that must have been round about 1973. It was a very fast-paced department … the amount of children that you were working with and trying to give them good care. So, my Mum worked there and then she actually went out to work in what would now be considered the challenging behaviour unit for females and again she had an excellent rapport going with the residents in the ward that she was working with and she really did like the old staff as well.
You and your mum were obviously related because you were mother and daughter. Did you find that a lot in the hospital? Were there a lot of family members?
Yes, there were a lot of family members that worked in the hospital but very, very seldom did they work together. That was a sort of an unwritten rule whereby the management tried to ensure that, you know, mother and daughter, or sisters etc, father and son, father and daughter were never working together. At that point, right up until the mid seventies … I could be wrong … the hospital itself was segregated. It was run as two separate hospitals. There was a male section and a female section, both with their own management structures so it was a case of, you know, that’s the way things were then. I’m just pleased that things obviously started to become a lot more integrated and male staff worked with females and female nurses and vice versa.
And can you tell me a bit about the holiday?
Ronnie Meechan always organised the social activities for the residents at Lennox Castle. It was always between Butlins or Loch Lomond and we would get one week. I participated in one of these holidays in 1982 and it was actually on my way back with the other members of staff that I thought this is quite sad, you know, that this is all they have to look forward to. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they had bus outings to different places etc. but never anything stretched above that. So, in conjunction with the excellent staff that I had working with me and in the male section of the hospital, we got together and did numerous fundraising events. I actually had to take it to management level for their approval. We fundraised for roughly twelve or fourteen months and successfully took ten of the residents on holiday to Mallorca in September 1983. Wonderful holiday! Obviously every one that participated had never been in an aeroplane before. Their families got involved … they helped with fundraising, purchasing new clothing for their sister, husbands or whatever. It was super. Everybody worked together and it paved the way for holidays abroad for people with learning disabilities to become the norm.
How easy was it for you to organise this holiday and make it happen in terms of any sort of restrictions?
Well, I’m going to be quite diplomatic because there were individuals and management who were quite negative with regards to what should happen to the patients … what would happen in the aeroplane? Blah, blah, blah... But, you know the people that I had taken as staff with me were well trained and should anything occur, then we would deal with the situation as it occurred and fortunately enough, nothing ever did occur.
So it was an exciting and a successful experience?
Very much so. One particular instance comes to mind. We organised with the ten individuals to take them to a Medieval banquet and we got there in the evening to see a shipload of fifty or sixty officers from the Italian Navy … think back to Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman … and one of the female clients was just dumbfounded to see these handsome young chaps and she wanted to ask if one of them would come and dance with her. I left that to the male chap who was with us, one of the student nurses, and Peter was fortunate enough to secure one of these young chaps to come over and dance with her and she was over the moon. Over the moon. Unfortunately we don’t have any photographs of that because I would’ve been embarrassed to have taken them but there were a lot of good experiences. And people were so kind as well especially within the hotel and at the swimming pool area etc.
Did many other people that were residents in the hospital then go onto foreign holidays abroad?
Yes. Yes, I think they even ventured to America and suchlike but as I say, that was the first time we tried it. I am quite proud of it now and I think everybody that was involved probably felt the same. Very proud of it.
That’s a really interesting story. Can I just ask you - you say you were there for twenty years or so – can you describe to me any sort of changes that you saw from when you first started to when you left the hospital, any positive or negative?
I think for me the integration, the integration of departments and males and females being allowed to associate with one another. It was very unfortunate for the young people who at that point were in separate wards. Integration meant a lot more freedom for them. Other more social activities started to be incorporated within the hospital and other things to happen and some of the young women were allowed to go outside the hospital and work and hold down jobs and eventually, be discharged. Community care packages were arranged for the first female residents to be discharged from the hospital so it was great to see all this happening for a lot of the residents that were in there and who wanted to be out in the community.
I think from the negative point of view, and this is my own personal experience… one lady that I had been friendly with who was quite elderly, she was blind and only had partial hearing and had been in there since 1939 and at this point I’m talking mid 80s it was decided she had to be discharged away from her friends to a new area out with Glasgow where she knew nobody and she was so, so depressed at leaving. At that point in time she was in her mid-seventies, mid to late seventies and the hospital had become her home and I think she anticipated that that’s where she would eventually pass away . So that was very unfortunate. The changes were good in some ways and bad in others.
Maybe not for older residents?
No, I wouldn’t have said so. A lot of them had a great deal of trepidation and because I had built a rapport with this particular lady up since I was a student, it was sad to read her letter after she got discharged and she eventually ended up in a secluded situation. Her letters were quite sad to read. She was very, very articulate, very intelligent and it really was sad to see that happen to someone that age.
What were your feelings around the hospital closing ten years ago?
Very sad. Very, very sad. In fact, I took a trip up for personal reasons some two weeks ago. I drove up Crow Road and looked over and all the good memories came. I mean obviously progress has got to be made as far as people’s lives etc. but it held many good memories, so many good memories. But time marches on.
Do you have anything else you want to tell me about your mum’s experience or any stories that she shared with you that you would like to share with us?
Oh, goodness, it’s hard to think about that. She’s a very, very warm, friendly individual and my only experience, because obviously then by that time I was qualified, was my mother had a great rapport with some of the young women who in this day and age would probably be termed with challenging behaviour but my mother had a superb rapport with them. I would say probably the magic touch. She could just get through and be able to speak to the girls and about the problems they were having. I always remember my mother like that. A very, very happy individual and people warmed to her. That’s the memories I always have of my mum and her time within the hospital. I never ever mind her talking negatively about it, or negatively about anything to do with either the residents or the staff.
Do you keep in touch with many of your ex-colleagues from the hospital?
Yes, I do. In actual fact, from that photograph, I keep in touch with quite a few of them.
Obviously I’ve had occasions, whether it’s been in Glasgow or some other town, when I’ve bumped into someone who resided at Lennox Castle and it’s nice that I sometimes meet some of the residents in Kirkintilloch as well and can chit chat with them if I meet them in a coffee shop or in the street.
The residents that you knew from your time in the hospital that you’ve maybe bumped into and they’re part of the community, do you see any improvement in their lives now that they’re part of the community?
The majority, yes, but obviously there’s a negative side to that as well. I have seen one or two people not doing too well. It’s quite evident. Maybe they are wearing inappropriate clothing for the time of year or just general frailty, but for others there’s nothing wrong.
So you think it might have been the right thing for some people?
I would say that for the majority it was right. I think it was great for the people who were young in the mid 80s and I think it’s been good for them. But I think as you progressed up the age bracket, into the fifties and sixties, seventies even, I think it becomes more difficult for them to adjust.
Can I just go back and ask you why you got into this field of work, what your reasons were?
It was actually my mother. I had actually applied, and been accepted, to Stobhill Hospital in ’68 but at that particular time you had to reside the first year in and being a home bunny I didn’t relish the thought of having to stay in a nurse’s home for a year and my own home was only four miles out in Kirkintilloch. So it was actually my mother that put the suggestion into my head and I went up I think it was in the October and sat the entrance exam and passed and was accepted onto the student nurse role for January ’69. I opted to go to Lennox Castle and I’m glad I did.
And did you work different shifts when you were a student?
At that time a nurse worked very hard; one week of early shift, one week of back shift. Early shift would be seven o’clock ‘til I think it was about five past one and seven o’clock ‘til two on a Sunday. The back shift was one o’clock ‘til 10 which was fairly long with a half-hour break for our tea etc. but that’s the way the shifts worked for students. At that point in time, in your second year, it was twelve weeks constant nightshift which was seven on and four off, and seven on and three off. That’s the way the shift pattern worked.
Is there anything else you want to add to today’s interview?
I would like to think that I advocate that the majority of people who worked there and did an excellent job and it just frustrates me when I have occasion in the community to meet others who, through hearsay, are more inclined to ‘diss’ Lennox Castle and be very negative about it where in actual fact they have never been there and they never worked there. I’ve got superb memories of the place. Superb memories of all the staff and given the resources we had then and the constraints that were put in place, they gave an excellent service to the residents that were there.
Can I have your mum’s name for this purpose?