“You had a choice to make: stay with the expectant mum and deliver her baby or run to the nearest phone box to ‘call the midwife’ but risk the woman giving birth alone with a toddler running around? The dilemma of a 1960s midwife – and I was still in training!”

Just like in the BBC TV series Call the Midwife, Pauline Quinn was a real-life midwife in the 60s. After an extensive career her last role was Service Manager Maternity Paediatrics and Gynaecology and Director of Midwifery based at Queen’s Park Hospital before her retirement. In 2003 she was honoured with an OBE by the Queen for her services to midwifery in Lancashire.

She said:

"To this day I still fold my tea towels in the same precise way we were instructed to fold the bedding by the Matron. After all, you didn’t dare argue with them – they were terrifying!

I trained as a State Registered Nurse (SRN) at Broadgreen Hospital in Liverpool in 1966 then did my midwife training over 12 months.

It was very strict, and you worked hard; physically and mentally.

Pauline QuinnAt the start of every shift Matron checked your uniform. High standards were always required. Clean apron, shoes polished, nails clean, no jewellery and your hair tied neatly up in a bun with your cap on top. Heaven help anyone who had a strand of hair loose!

Many women gave birth at home, so our job was to deliver the baby and then visit them twice a day for the next three days then once a day up to 10 days.

Women didn’t like ‘to bother’ the midwife by calling her out too soon.

Back then most had mothers, sisters, or aunts living with them or on the same street! These strong, reliable women were experienced at knowing when baby was ready, so they didn’t call the midwife until the very last minute.

Of course, no one had phones at home, so a family member or student midwife had to run to the nearest phone box to call for the midwife – so you always had to carry plenty of change!

But of course, sometimes you didn’t have time to call so you just delivered it yourself. I’m not even sure now if I was scared or nervous – you just did it.   

Thankfully, all babies I delivered were problem-free. We were told to call for the Flying Squad if mum or baby ran into difficulty. I thought this was a helicopter or plane until I was told it meant a senior midwife and doctor coming by ambulance!

By the 70s I’d moved to East Lancashire and was a Community Midwife for the Ribble Valley, Blackburn and Hyndburn districts. I held antenatal clinics and parents crafts at Clitheroe Health Centre, attended to home births and post-birth visits.

My uniform was a royal navy-blue dress and a tweed coat which they provided. It was very posh and cost a fortune!

I remember going to see one young lady who lived on a farm. The day before she’d given birth and when I arrived that morning, she was standing in the kitchen breastfeeding the baby with one hand and baking fresh bread with the other!

Another time, I visited a house in Clitheroe and was greeted by a huge tortoise, snake, dog and toddler – and that was before I’d even seen Mum and baby!

It was different, but lovely times back then. A simpler way of living.

I can’t tell you how many babies I have delivered. But I never got tired of it.

Seeing a mum and the family happy, and her baby healthy was wonderful. I always wanted to care for people and when I became a midwife I never not wanted to go to work. I loved my job."

If you are inspired to look for a role in midwifery, check out our vacancies at www.elht.nhs.uk