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Following on from last week’s article which looked the Mahood Collection and its links to local families, we now look at nursing career of Patricia Mahood. The Collection contains 276 items, of which over 60% relates to Patricia, mostly in the form of photographs.

Patricia, the only child of Tom and Nora Mahood, attended Victoria College in Belfast as a boarder and then trained as a nurse in the Royal Victoria Hospital. She joined the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps and travelled to India as a nursing Sister. For three years, between 1945 and 1948 she looked after former prisoners of war and this proved to be an exciting time, particularly as it coincided with Independence in India.

Patricia Mahood (front, centre) with nursing colleagues outside the ‘Sisters Mess’, British General Hospital, Poona, India.   Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Patricia Mahood (front, centre) with nursing colleagues outside the ‘Sisters Mess’, British General Hospital, Poona, India. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Although Patricia did not keep a diary of her time in India, the photographs that she took there (of which there are over 140 in the Collection) document her work and leisure time and form a pictorial diary. 

Patricia Mahood, April 1946. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Patricia Mahood, April 1946. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

Most of her nursing time was spent at Poona (Pune), Maharastra state, in one of the General Hospitals. Although there are photographs of the prisoners of war she nursed, no further detail is provided about them, but presumably they had been held in camps in Burma and other parts of the Far East. These camps were notorious for their terrible conditions and appalling treatment of prisoners. Some of the photographs provide clues as to where the prisoners came from; on one of the photographs Patricia has written ‘Indian Wing 41 BGH (British General Hospital) some of my patients walking in the ward garden … the tall one is … Punjabi … beside him … is a Gurkha’, while another photograph is inscribed ‘Two brave Irishmen Gorman and Fitzpatrick’. 

Photograph taken by Patricia Mahood while serving in India as a nurse. Written on reverse is ‘Miss Johnson receiving the Indian National flag for the Q.A.I.M.N.S. (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service) from her Excellency the Rani Maharaj Singh the Governor of Bombay's wife'. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Photograph taken by Patricia Mahood while serving in India as a nurse. Written on reverse is ‘Miss Johnson receiving the Indian National flag for the Q.A.I.M.N.S. (Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service) from her Excellency the Rani Maharaj Singh the Governor of Bombay's wife'. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The photographs provide colour and insight into life in India at this time in its history. Scenes recorded include royal processions at Mysore (Mysuru), shop vendors, temples and the ‘Dhobi Ghat’ or open-air laundry where clothes and linens from hotels and hospitals were washed.

Patricia and her fellow nurses travelled around their hospital base by bicycle or rickshaw. There were also opportunities for travel further afield, and the photographs show that Patricia travelled extensively throughout India, from Bombay (Mumbai) on the west coast to Assam in the northeast of India, probably by train. Photographs of places visited including the Brindavan Gardens, Chamundi Palace and Temple at Mysore in Karnataka state and the Viceroy’s Palace, Delhi.

Various leisure pursuits were available to Patricia and her colleagues, and there are numerous photographs of her and colleagues swimming, diving, playing tennis and enjoying pool parties at Kirkee (Khadki), near Poona. 

On her return from India, Patricia trained as a burns specialist in East Grinstead Hospital, Sussex, and took up duties connected with plastic surgery. There are fourteen photographs of her time there, up to at least 1955, in the Collection. 

Patricia Mahood (to left) helping with the treatment of a patient while training as a burns specialist in East Grinstead Hospital, Sussex. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Patricia Mahood (to left) helping with the treatment of a patient while training as a burns specialist in East Grinstead Hospital, Sussex. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

She returned home to Northern Ireland and worked with elderly people at Broughshane and Magheramourne before being appointed matron of the Seymour Hill nursing home in Dunmurry, Belfast.  She worked there for eighteen years before retiring in 1979 due to ill health. She died in autumn 2006 in Newcastle where she had retired.

The Mahood Collection is an important and valuable insight into the role of nurses in caring for prisoners of war in India at this period, of which very little has been written.

Memorabilia relating to Patricia Mahood is currently on display in the Museum’s temporary exhibition War Declared: the local impact of World War II. 

Newry and Mourne Museum has reopened to the public in a phased capacity. We are open Wednesday – Saturday, from 10am – 12pm and from 2pm – 4pm. Please call 0330 137 4422 for further information.

by Noreen Cunningham

 

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