Royal Newcastle Hospital Graduate Nurses’ Association Event

Yesterday, the 30 August 2008, I had the great honour to be the guest speaker at the RNH Graduate Nurses Inc. 2008 Annual Luncheon held at Souths Leagues Club Merewether.  The topic of the presentation was an introduction to the Cultural Collections of the University of Newcastle Library that contain the records of the Newcastle hospitals including the Royal.

The presentation covered the history of the Cultural Collections comprising the University Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections held at the University, the importance of regional history and the work we are undertaking on the internet to bring history to a wider and younger audience of artistic enthusiasts. These ‘enthusiasts’ include people as young as the Mayfield East Public School children, who recently won the National Trust’s ‘My Place, My School’ competition in Sydney to 94 (going on 95) year old Mayfield treasure Mr Jim Downie.

Catherine and Gionni Di Gravio with Mrs Betty Capper

Catherine and Gionni Di Gravio with Mrs Betty Capper

The Nurses are an inspiring group of people. They are the guardian angels of the community. These people care for us at our most vulnerable, they help us into the world, care for us when illness and misfortune befall us and accompany our families at the end of life. The see the whole gamut. They are also a charming and funny lot, I will never forget them applauding each group of nurses dating from the 1930s, who would each in turn stand. They even applauded my wife for her few weeks of work experience in the 1980s and her subsequent choice to not pursue the life of pathology but rather go to Art School instead. I was also given a Cook Book for inclusion in the archives, published in 1970, adorned with a legendary Herald Lumsdon cartoon. I could see the cat very clearly, but the apple core still eludes me. I was told he didn’t always include apple cores in all his cartoons.

Royal Newcastle Hospital Cook Book, 1970

Royal Newcastle Hospital Cook Book, 1970

It is therefore important that such a profession is documented and its records safeguarded to inspire future generations on one’s duty to humanity. This is immortalised in a Nurses Hymn composed by May Brae in 1950.

The Nurses Hymn

Lord, sharpen thou mine eyes
To see my duty clear.
Lord, strengthen thou mine arm
To do the task that’s near;
From vain and selfish ways
Dear Lord deliver me
And let me ever use my days
To serve humanity.

Lord, give me hope to wear
A shining armour bright;
Lord, give me light to share
With all who face the night;
And when my work is done
A gift of love to thee,
Oh, let me gladly, proudly say
I love humanity.

[Composed by May Brae]

Gionni Di Gravio
31 August 2008

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