Hospital Awards handed over to Museum

25 August 2019 By Cyril (Ferdie) Gunnell

A handing-over ceremony of historic hospital items to the Museum of St Helena took place on August 16.

The items included the Norah March Trophy representing huge achievement by the midwifery team in the 1950s, and the Rose Bowl presented to St Helena's first Matron and Founder of the Island's Professional Nursing Service.

At the ceremony speeches were given by the Acting Chair of the Heritage Society, David Pryce, Chairman of Public Health Committee, Cllr Derek Thomas, and Ivy Ellick OBE who is a Member of the St Helena Heritage Society and former Chief Administrative Health & Social Services Officer. Three former midwives; Marjorie Young BEM, Faith Nicholls and Jean Peters were among the attendees witnessing the transfer.

What is the Norah March Trophy?

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This award, which all of the Overseas Territories contested, represented the huge achievement by the midwifery team at St Helena's hospital in delivering babies successfully in the 1950s. The Trophy was to be kept for three years and was proudly displayed in a glass case inside the foyer of the General Hospital on the counter to the left of the front door.

Accompanying the Norah March Trophy – a black statuette of a mother holding her baby was a certificate reading:

"This is to certify that Saint Helena has been awarded the Norah March Trophy by the National Baby Welfare Council for continued progress in Maternal and Child Welfare in the years 1955-1960. This trophy will be held by St Helena for three years (1963-1965)."

But after yet another remarkable baby delivery, the National Baby Welfare Council allowed St Helena to keep the Trophy indefinitely. This followed a situation where a mother gave birth to a baby prematurely; at 25 weeks with the baby weighing only one-and-a-half pounds and not expected to live – there were no incubators then and the mother was without milk.

Back then it was not uncommon for 6 or 7 babies to be cared for at the same time. There were just two doctors (including the Senior Medical Officer) and the Matron, Gracie Sim. Still, there was no way this baby was going to slip away. Using a dropper the nurses fed the baby with another mother's milk and kept the baby warm in a cot using four "hot water bottles" at correct temperature. The baby, born prematurely, did not only survive but is today a strapping man in his 50s.

At the ceremony on August 16, Mrs Young told about another baby weighing just one-and-a-half-pounds at birth. She said, "That baby was brought up in an Epsom Salts box and she is now a 70 year old woman."

Mrs Ellick talked about concern raised about a year ago when the Norah March statuette "went missing" for a while. It was following the refurbishment by Basil Read of the General Hospital and a number of displayed items had been put away for safety. Mistakenly the statuette got included with other items destined for the dump. Fortunately, someone who realized the enormous value of the prestigious award to St Helena came upon the statuette and had put it safely aside.

What is the Rose Bowl?

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The second item handed over to the Museum was the Rose Bowl that had been presented to the late Grace H. Sim BEM SRN SCM. The inscription reads: St Helena's own First Matron and Founder of the Island's Professional Nursing Service. With love from all those she trained, worked with and above all cared for with such devotion, and our gratitude for her continuing peerless example in patient care."

Mrs Ellick spoke affectionately about the work and leadership of 'Gracie' Sim. Of the impeccable standards she had set for herself and encouraged others to emulate. She also spoke admirably about the late Matron Till, who had preceded and inspired Matron Sim.

Safe in the knowledge that the Norah March Trophy and Rose Bowl will be on permanent display for visitors to Museum of St Helena, refreshments were served following the ceremony.