“It’s like magic watching a baby being delivered, and that feeling never left me.”

Margaret Wilson trained as a Staff Nurse at Blackburn Royal Infirmary in 1948 when the NHS was established. She was Community Midwife and then Nursing Officer for Community Midwives at the former Queen’s Park Hospital in Blackburn until her retirement in 1996. In July 1981 she represented England and Lancashire Midwives at Her Majesty’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

She said:

Our day started at 7.30am. We wore our ‘dirty’ apron from the previous day and set about cleaning bedpans and changing beds by 9am. We then had a quick cup of tea, changed our apron and headed out for rounds.

We worked nine hours a day, six days a week. Once a week we headed to the classroom in the hospital for a one-hour lecture.

Margaret WilsonWhen the NHS founded there was a general excitement about it, but I don’t remember any big grand opening!

The immediate change was the introduction of management. Previously, Matron was the boss. She did everything in the hospital and anything you needed you went to her. The NHS introduced structure and a fairer working environment.

Once qualified I worked in theatre, but I wanted more patient contact so did Midwifery training at Townley’s Hospital in Bolton then lived with a Midwife (and her parents) to learn the job.

Expectant mums could have their baby in hospital or maternity homes, but many chose a home birth. They were given a list of what they needed to prepare, such as newspaper for the floor and a box which contained the Midwives’ telephone numbers (clinic and home), ‘tuppence’ (two pennies) to call the midwife, pads and sheets.

Once qualified you visited each house by yourself. GPs left everything to the midwives and you only called for assistance if there was an issue – something I never had to do.

One of the first houses I visited the husband left me and his wife alone and I was horrified because the phone box was a quarter of a mile away so I would have struggled if there had been any complications. Thankfully there wasn’t and I delivered her daughter, Julia, safely.

Another time I delivered a baby boy and when I went to deliver the placenta, I delivered another baby instead - the woman had been misdiagnosed and was carrying twin boys! We didn’t have scans so if babies were lying back-to-back it was hard to diagnose more than one. Apart from the shock, mother and babies were fine.

I can’t even begin to count how many babies I delivered but I loved every single one and would do it all again tomorrow if I could!