Staff at the  old Ulverstone hospital did their best to make things festive at Christmas.

The thing I remember most about the Ulverstone Hospital is taking eggs to school in the 1950s for their annual Egg Appeal. Each was wrapped in newspaper by my mother and packed into an empty Weetbix box. I was fascinated to read a report in The Advocate dated 3 October 1949 which stated that the eggs were preserved by staff for use during the ‘off’ season. They were considered by Matron Jean Viney as an essential part of the patients’ diet.

In this small community hospital everyone pitched in, especially at Christmas;

From The Advocate December 28 1949;


Christmas celebrations at the General Hospital, Ulverstone, were on an elaborate scale. On Christmas Eve, Mr Syd. Day, in the disguise of jolly old Santa Claus, followed his usual custom by distributing sweets and cigarettes among the patients. Stationed on the lawn, the Salvation Army Band played those familiar Christmas carols without which the happy festive season is incomplete.

The nursing staff had magically transformed wards and nurses’ quarters into a festive setting. Streamers of many hues, with festoons of fanciful paper links and latticed fans, Christmas bells, stars and balloons, hung everywhere. “Merry Christmas” was spelt in bobbles of snowy cotton wool and silver tinsel over doorways and mantlepieces.

The type of Christmas decorations used in the Ulverstone Hospital 1949

The town’s doctors; Ferris, and Walker, contributed flowers from their own gardens, as did Mrs Gollan, whose husband Dr Lachlan Gollan had died two years earlier.

Bowls, vases and troughs held blendings of all the seasons flowers, among which roses, carnations, Iceland poppies, sweet peas and delphiniums were found. Slender Christmas lilies rose from bases of smaller flowers.

Special attention was given to the corner of a sheltered verandah where a patient, Mrs. Susie A. Beale, loved by the staff and visitors alike for her patience and fortitude, has lain for the past 10 years.

Who was Suzie Beale I wonder, and what on earth was wrong with her? She was still in the Ulverstone hospital two years later!


Along with the lollies handed out to patient there were cakes. A large Christmas cake topped with a figure of Santa Claus from the Warden Mr Lakin and his wife, and others decorated with sprigs of holly from the owners and staff of Reiby Street’s Orlando Cafe.

My grandmother would have contributed to the festivities in various ways, as a member of the C.W.A., the Red Cross and the Methodist Ladies guild. She lived only a few doors away in Victoria Street, and died peacefully in the hospital aged 88. She had never had much time for Dr Ferris, who was a rather no-nonsense fellow, but both Dr Walker and Dr Gollan held a special place in her heart.

In 1954, as a three year old, I was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night, delirious from complications of measles. My only clear memory of the next few days is of the central light in the ward being shaded with cloth, to protect my eyes.

The dear old hospital has long gone and thankfully so has measles, thanks to vaccination. That’s worth thinking about this year as we battle Covid19. I have ended this piece on a sombre note, but in hospitals everywhere staff are decorating wards and doing their best to make Christmas as cheerful as possible, just as they did at Ulverstone in 1949.


  1. Very best of festive wishes Pauline. Simon Storey

    • Pauline

      Thanks Simon and the same to you. It will be a very quiet one here in the Blue Mountains.

  2. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas from Ireland.
    Keep the stories coming! I love them!

    • Pauline

      Thanks Lorraine. I hope things are not too difficult for you in beautiful Ireland with this wretched virus. Warmest wishes to you and your family. I think we will be staying put here in Blackheath as there are new cases in Sydney. Let’s hope 2021 is more positive for us all.

  3. My half brothers were born in this hospital . Lovely to see the old paper xmas decorations. We don’t really need the plastic ones!

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