1959 Hillcrest Hospital Leicester
This was the month when as a 17 year
old I started my first job as a welfare clerk at what
used to be Leicester's Workhouse and then a geriatric
After an interview at the Leicester
City Council Welfare Office in Pocklington's Walk I
was assigned to the hospital and a friend to the Pocklington
Walk Office. I remember the look on people's faces when
I said where I was to work and wondered what I was letting
myself in for. My friend was soon gloating that he had
the better job. He turned out to be quite envious.
was just over Swain Street railway bridge in Sparkenhoe
Street. What a daunting place for a 17 year old
as I went through the gates into The Lodge. Things
changed as a friendly porter took me to the Welfare
Office, which was to the left of the main entrance.
Such a small office painted green and cream if my
memory is working OK. Here I was introduced to The
Chief of the Welfare Office Mrs. Rayns and her staff
Miss Cole and Mr Wright. Geoff looked about 35 and
would be who I worked with. Quite a relief as Miss
Cole and Mrs. Rayns seemed rather stern and frightening.
Whilst being shown around by Geoff
on that first morning a mutual interest in football
emerged as he had played for Walsall at one time. Also
in the main office Mr Clegg was a local football referee.
Then followed Mr Healey the Superintendent, Mr Booth
his Deputy, Matron and Deputy Matron who might have
been O'Hearne and MacAllister, Chief Clerk Mr Higginbottam,
Mrs. Rayns husband who was the chef and the 8 or so
ward sisters. It was impressed on me, except by Geoff,
that I was an office junior and all of them were higher
in all respects.
The Hospital had separate residential
sides for male and female and 2 or 3 male wards
which ran along the railway side. The female wards
were in two blocks 3 high.
My job was to help get pension
books signed and hand out patients on the wards
their weekly money allowance (if they were deemed
fit enough), type out the account sheets and any
standard letters that were needed. This sounded
boring but soon I was to realise that being so
young compared to the patients and residents had
its benefits as I suddenly had that many 'mums
and dads' looking after me!
It seemed an impossible task to remember
names but several of the elderly ladies used to point
out who was who and gradually over the months I could
venture out on my own and find the majority of them.
On a Friday morning Geoff disappeared
down the main post office with all the pension books
and in a conference room every counterfoil was stamped
and torn out by the PO staff. Woe betide us if the figures
didn't tally up. How many books? Seemed thousands and
thought about 5-8 hundred but haven't been able to find
One of my duties was to man the lodge
and its switchboard every 4th or 5th weekend. For this
we had 2 days off in the week. So training on the marvels
of a ball and socket switchboard was one of my first
challenges. Interesting that even then you could arrange
a 3 or 4 way conversation. Well others could. The days
off were strange as all my pals were working but I started
playing golf at the Western Park Municipal Course. Never
that good but it's something I enjoyed.
At the weekend it was also the duty
clerks responsibility to issue the daily milk ration
to the wards. Needless to say it was easy for the nurses
to make sure they had more than enough milk from a very
nervous young lad.
Christmas Day was a special time
as it has been the only time I have ever worked
on that day. As well it was voluntary as far as
I started with Geoff about 9am.
Our job was to give sweets and things to the patients
on the 8 or so wards. He warned me that it was
very strenuous work and we were expected to wish
everyone a happy Christmas and not refuse a drink
from the ward sisters. I remember accepting a
few but not an awful lot after the first few wards.
I do remember commenting afterwards that I found
out a ward linen cupboard was big enough for two
Also I remember helping to ply the
residents with ale from jugs filled in the kitchen at
their Christmas Dinner a little later on. Again I seemed
to serve the same fellows quite a few times as they
insisted it was their first drink.
I had my first motorised bike whilst
at the hospital. My older brother's Norman Nippy. It
was the rich mans cyclemaster as it had fairings and
a covered in chain. It was the days of no crash helmets
until a cyclist was injured outside the hospital gates
and Mrs. Rayn's insisted a wore one or didn't go to
work on it!!
Workers Playtime the radio programme
was recorded one lunch time with Tony Hatch and Jackie
Trent. We were kept out of the way though so couldn't
have been classed as workers.
This was also the time to think of
the future and promotion prospects. So with my pal from
the main office we entered the delights of Night School.
On a Monday I worked from 8.30 until 6pm but was allowed
to leave at 5pm as evening lessons started at I think
I started to learn about who paid for
street lighting, the police, dustbins etc. Also the
many acts of parliament that affected local government.
After a while it was that boring we used to extend our
tea break for a pint in a local pub. Then it was a case
of not going back for the second part. This had a profound
effect on me for after a chat with Mrs. Rayns about
my lack of ambition I found out a little known exam
taken at school gave me two increments on my starting
pay and the need not to take the first two exams!!
was The Local Government Entrance Exam and our Headmaster
at Ellis Avenue School, Mr Date (He had also taught
my dad at The Wyggeston Grammar School) had made
us take it before our GCE's to get used to the process
of sitting exams. Another exam he found for us was
The College of Preceptors Exam a trial for leaving
school at 15 with some qualifications.
More interesting was the odd party
at the hospital that started at 10pm and finished about
6 in the morning. These were held in the Chief Clerks
apartment and the boardroom.
After just over 2 years I left this
paradise when I decided to join the RAF even though
National Service had finished. I had learnt a lot and
feel much of that has helped me since having cancer.
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