CRYING IN THE LINEN CUPBOARD. . . and Laughing in the Sluice
Trials and Triumphs of Trainee Nurses in the 1950s
by Margaret Morris
1948, and in austerity Britain, food, clothing and fuel are still tightly
rationed. The country is tired, shabby and bankrupt.
Against this background comes Aneurin Bevan’s new National Health Service. The service that, free of charge, is going to
look after us all ‘from cradle to grave’ or, as one wit has put it ‘from lying in to laying out’.
Eleven young women, from a variety of backgrounds, start on their chosen career
paths to become State Registered Nurses in this newly conceived service.
The difficulties and challenges that they meet, each in their own way, and the
limitations they experience living in a regimented and highly hierarchical
society, are all faithfully recorded through the authentic experiences of the
author herself as the character of Margery Harvey, along with the fun, the
humour and the camaraderie of her colleagues.
At this provincial northern hospital change is taking place, both in the health
service itself and society in general. Meals are provided free for the first
time and bed curtains introduced to give patients some privacy; the first black
doctor appears and the first male nurse, but the nurses would still lose their
jobs if they married!
Here is a slice of life from the fledgling beginnings of the National Health
Service, and a reminder just how far it has now improved and advanced for staff
and patients alike.
On leaving Grammar School Margaret Morris trained in general nursing at Preston
Royal Infirmary between the years 1948-51, and it is these years that she
remembers within this book. She went on to qualify as a midwife, then became a
health visitor. She had a career break whilst she raised three children and
then returned to work health visiting in a multi-cultural and highly
disadvantaged inner city practice where she was eventually promoted into
During her working life Margaret started writing in connection with her
profession and had a number of articles published in magazines such as Nursing Mirror and Nursing Times. Since retirement she has been involved in setting up and chairing a committee to
found a hostel for young homeless adults which is still functioning. She was
also invited onto the board of ‘Places for People’, becoming the chair of the North West Area Committee and later Vice Chairman of
the parent board, only retiring due to their age rule.
Finding she enjoyed the many public speaking engagements within her work, she
took up after-dinner speaking using interesting and humorous anecdotes from her
career. She has written Crying in the Linen Cupboard to show that ‘the oft divided, maligned, taken-for-granted NHS has come a long, long way in a
short, short time. For which we should be truly grateful.’