Nurse Mary Adam

Yorkshire Film Archive

Yorkshire Film Archive

Following an appeal for information regarding Nurse Mary Adam, whose copy of the Ripon Highland Sports programme is held by the Brotherton Library in Leeds, we were contacted by Mairi Sanda of New South Wales, Australia. Mairi is the granddaughter of Mary Hardie (née Adam); she very kindly provided us with the photograph on the left, showing her grandmother in later years, which enabled us to identify Mary in the film.

Mary's story is best recounted by someone who knew her very well indeed - her daughter, the late Grace Oliver, speaking at her mother's funeral:

Tribute to My Mother
Mary Pollock Hardie
1 May 1892 to 9 August 1981
Funeral held on 12 August 1981

Mothers symbolise love and no one exemplified mother-love better than Mary Pollock Hardie. All her long life she loved, and was loved in return for her generosity, her kindness, her care and concern for others and for her cheerfulness and courage.

As a young girl of eighteen she left home to become a nurse during a Typhoid epidemic in 1910. Her life was dedicated to nursing in the days when good nursing was essential to save lives or to make comfortable and bearable the inevitable process of killing diseases such as Tuberculosis, Typhoid Fever, Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria and Smallpox. Her compassion and skill are still remembered today. Every year she attended a reunion of nurses who had trained at the same hospital. She was their President and their reunion next May will be sad without her.

The young man she might have married never came back from France in the First World War and she pursued her career without thoughts of marriage as so many women of her generation had to. She became Ward Sister, Night Sister, Charge Sister, and, finally, Matron of Thorpe Hospital, Easington, County Durham when she was in her late thirties. At forty she married and devoted her energies to helping my father run his practice and to having two children and running a home with all her talent for hard work and organisation. She kept the surgery and dispensary spotless, answered the phone, gave advice and often practical help to patients, made up bottles of medicine and dealt with casualties. She was loved and respected by my father, and by his patients, for forty years.

She was a staunch and active member of the Presbyterian Church and gave of her money, her time, her energy unstintingly.

During the Second World War she taught First Aid, was an ARP Warden, took in an evacuee who became like a third daughter, invited homesick soldiers to a “nice hot bath” and a good dinner in a comfortable house. She was always very practical – she understood about the home comforts they were missing. She had many friends all over the world.

She loved children and they responded to her and loved her. She was never impatient with them, never bored, never too busy to talk or play or listen. She understood them, and all young people were of special interest to her. She was vitally concerned about their hopes and dreams for the future and loved talking to them, advising and encouraging them. Every baby, every small child, was to her beautiful and adorable. She never met a child without smiling, praising, admiring and loving it.

She appreciated and remembered every kindness done for her and often recalled little incidents to illustrate how kind and thoughtful people had been. She would have thanked you all in her gracious way for being here today.

She loved life and lived it fully all her 89 years. She loved fun and laughter and was an amusing and cheerful companion. She never forgot anyone, her memory was prodigious and her stories and anecdotes are legion.

Her last few years have brought disability and loneliness and pain but she did not grumble or complain. She was always optimistic and outgoing – ready for anything. Her faults were few and her good deeds uncountable. She had high standards – of behaviour, of morals, of cleanliness and godliness. She couldn’t bear laziness or unkindness or cruelty. She never did a mean or unkind thing.

She didn’t believe in moping about. Her advice to us if we were unhappy was always “keep busy”, “keep smiling”.

So although she would understand our grief and our feelings of loss today she would not wish it to be excessive or morbid, or prolonged – just appropriate and dignified as she always was herself.

We have much to be grateful for. Grateful for her long and useful life. Grateful that her death was easy. Grateful that she was our friend. It was a privilege to have known her.

I am so grateful that she was my mother. Each person is unique and I can never hope to be the remarkable woman that she was but I can try to follow her example.

I shall remember her infectious laugh, her lovely cloud of white hair, her gentle loving hands. She was very beautiful.

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  • Title: Nurse Mary Adam
  • Rights: Photo on left, and eulogy, courtesy of Mairi Sanda, granddaughter of Mary Hardie


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