Sheila – Age 95
“After the war I drove a breakdown truck taking leftover American jeeps to my family’s scrap metal business. Had the war not started I would have continued to be a midwife and so my advice to young
people would be to make use of opportunities you get. Decide what you want and work hard.”
I’m 95 now, born in Glasgow 1922 and brought up in Glasgow all my life, until I got married aged 27. I worked various different jobs; I did at one time come down to Tunbridge Wells and worked in a maternity nursing home, which I enjoyed very, very much. That’s one job I would have liked to have stayed at, but I was there when the war started. As my mother and father were going to be on their own, and my sister worked in London and my brother was a Scots Guard in London, I decided that I should go home to be with my parents. Otherwise, I would have stayed in Tunbridge Wells and continued to bring babies into the world, which I loved and enjoyed.
My favourite part of the job was the births; I really enjoyed working in the labour ward, helping babies be born. It was a wonderful feeling. First time I was in labour ward and helping out a birth, I said I couldn’t believe it. I just had no idea where babies came from or what they were like, and they were absolutely wonderful: perfectly formed little nails, tiny feet. Had the war not started, I would have continued and become a midwife – that’s what I would have liked.
The most memorable thing about working would have been the war, just when it was starting. After the war, there were big fields all around Glasgow, full of American jeeps and things, which were sold as they were surplus. They had been stockpiled in case they were needed during the war, and I used to go with a breakdown lorry from one side of the River Clyde. Glasgow is the first city to have an underground passage going underneath its river, going from north to the south side. These jeeps that were stockpiled had all to be brought over from the south side down and underneath the Clyde and back up to the other side, because my father and uncle had a garage business and they collected scrap metal for the war effort.
So I used to come cluttering along the road with these jeeps – some had tyres on, some had no tyres on; some had wheels, some had no wheels! We had tramlines in Glasgow, and the tyres of these jeeps were exactly fitted into the tramlines, and of course we would get stuck in the tramlines. We would be trying to get out of the tramlines and they were stuck them to like glue. My job was to go back and forth under that tunnel and bring all these jeeps over to the north side so that was quite memorable. I was quite well known; I had my boots on and dungarees. I think my father and uncle thought I was a boy! Or that I should have been a boy.
Young people have wonderful opportunities nowadays with education. My advice would be to make good use of the opportunities you get, because they do have lots of wonderful opportunities, more so than we did. If you don’t make a success of your life it’s because you haven’t really been serious about it. Decide what you want to do, then focus and work hard.
I enjoyed my retirement very much, when my husband was alive; we would do things together, take holidays together.