Sister Mary Nelson Heasley: a nurse from Belfast

Mary Nelson Heasley

Pauline Alden writes:

Our History Group is always delighted to be contacted by relatives of people in our stories. We were very excited to receive information from the granddaughter of Mary Nelson Heasley, who was a nurse working locally at Nunthorpe Hall Auxiliary Hospital in World War 1.

Miranda Rees told us “I have recently inherited a bundle of papers and collectibles from my late grandmother. These included a small silver trinket box with the following engraving on the bottom: Sister Heasley from the Staff,  Nunthorpe Hall VAD, March 22 1918. ”

Miranda continues “Mary Nelson Heasley was born on 19 May 1889 in Belfast and came to England in about 1912. She started her nursing training in 1913 and qualified in 1916. I found your informative article about Nunthorpe Hall as an auxiliary hospital in WW1 and I think that the picture of the nursing staff and VADs includes my grandmother. In the third row, the dark haired nurse wearing glasses and a coloured belt, immediately behind the lady wearing dark clothes in the centre of the picture, closely resembles a photo that I have of my grandmother.”

VADs and Staff of Nunthorpe Hall 1918

We investigated Mary’s family history and discovered that Sister Heasley was not on the Red Cross list of VADs. However as a qualified nurse Mary would have had a supervisory role at the auxiliary hospital at Nunthorpe Hall.

Mary started as a nurse probationer in Belfast, then embarked upon her nurse training at the Metropolitan Hospital in London in December 1912, finishing a fourth year in March 1917. She must have started at Nunthorpe Hall shortly after this.  This letter, signed by Dr. Louise Davis, the Medical Officer in Charge of Nunthorpe Hall VAD Hospital is dated October 1918. It reads: I have much pleasure in stating that Sister Heasley was in charge of my wards at the above Hospital for about twelve months. She has a thorough knowledge of surgical work and the patients under her care were well looked after and made great progress.

There is also a later certificate from the Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester, for service by Sister Heasley from October 1918 to April 1919.

Mary married James Neil Scott in March 1920 at the Parish Chapel, St. Pancras.  James and Mary may have known each other before WW1 and delayed their wedding until afterwards. He served with the army in WW1 in Northern France, and then returned to the City of London, importing Irish linen until retirement. The family lived in Westcliff on Sea, Croydon and Holborn until the 1950s. After the death of her husband in 1953, Mary moved to a flat in Hove to be cared for by her daughter and died in Uckfield in 1975 aged 86.

Mary Scott showed enormous courage in taking up the post at Nunthorpe Hall where the work would have been demanding and much more difficult than general nursing. She gained the respect of the VADs and doctors who worked with her.

Sources:

Miranda Rees

Ancestry co.uk

Photo of Nunthorpe Hall Auxiliary Hospital from West Riding St. John Ambulance War Service by CME Duncombe, no date.

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