RECENTLY we had a selection of pictures which showed Darlington Memorial Hospital’s school for nurses. Initially based in a Victorian villa on the edge of the hospital site, it opened shortly after the end of the Second World War and continued until the end of the century when nursing training graduated to universities.

Joan Harrison and David Turley were among the class of 1966 at the Memorial.

Joan was from Richmond originally but her family had moved to just over the road from the hospital in Orchard Road. David was from Bishop Middleham. He followed his father into nursing at Winterton mental hospital and went to the Memorial to complete his staff nurse training.

“He joined our course with the first flush of about four or five other men and they did cause a furore because we weren’t used to having men about,” says Joan.

There were about 60 nurses in each of the three years at the Memorial training school, so the first handful of men was a drop in the female ocean.

“He had been out with about half the nurses in the hospital,” says Joan. “I was at the end of a very long line, but we have survived 52 years of marriage, so we haven’t done too badly.”

In fact, the last time they featured in The Northern Echo was 52 years ago when they married at Holy Family church in Cockerton a couple of days before the end of the tax year on April 5, 1968. They – or rather David – became the last in Darlington to benefit from a tax loophole which was being closed. The wedding enabled David to qualify as a married man and so get a tax rebate dating back to April 5, 1967.

“We were earning £97 a month between us, so it did make a difference – but he was now getting more than me because he got the married man’s tax allowance,” says Joan.

The three year training to become a State Registered Nurse involved spending nine months each year on the wards with a three month block of lessons in the villa.

Both Joan and David won awards as the class of 1966 graduated. “The Memorial in those days had a very good reputation for training, and that was largely because of Miss Lowther, who was an excellent tutor,” says Joan.

Joan worked as a staff nurse for three years and then became a school nurse before having a career break to have their son, Andrew, a consultant cardiologist based at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. She then returned to the Memorial to work nights caring for elderly patients until a back injury incurred at work caused her to retire in 1990.

David worked in operating theatres at the Memorial for a couple of years and then transferred to a new psychiatric unit before going into industry.

“He became an ethical pharmaceutical representative,” says Joan. “Basically, he was a legal drug pusher for 33 years.” He sold medicines to doctors.

As part of the class of 1966, Joan and David were the last to receive a special Darlington Memorial Hospital badge.

The Northern Echo:

“Most hospitals gave their nurses a circular badge with a bit of enamel and the hospital’s name on it when they qualified, but this is quite ornate and made of silver,” says Joan. “It is more of a brooch. In fact, it was quite inconvenient because you pinned it on your uniform and it had lots of corners which used to catch on things.

“Our year was the last to receive this iconic token because I imagine they became too expensive to produce.”

The brooch consists of a cross on top of a square with the Memorial’s name picked out in red. This was obviously the Memorial’s logo at the time because a similar design featured on its literature.

A reader in his nineties has also been in touch about the badge. “I married a nurse who qualified in the 1950s at the Memorial and I bought her the badge at a cost of 12 shillings and six pence,” he says. “Although she died last year, I still have the badge and I am trying to research the origin of the design with the cross. Can anyone help?”