& Work Duties
Even before a child
arrived at St George's House, his or her health was an issue which was
given high priority and no child would be accepted without a medical
check , prior to arrival. Questions were asked concerning his/her
general physical and mental health, what diseases they may have had
(measles, chicken pox, whooping cough etc) and whether or not they had
been vaccinated and immunised.
On arrival at St George's the new entrant was allocated a locker and
clothes hook, then shown the Wash Room, Toilets, Dining Room and
Dormitory. At this stage the Matron would provide the child with a
full set of St George's uniform along with night clothes, towel, wash
flannel, toothbrush and allocated a
bed . Within a week the child was fully examined by St George's doctor
in the Surgery, with Miss Knocker and Sister Batty present and
arrangements made for vaccinations etc, if required.
Once admitted, a detailed record was kept of any
substantial illness and treatment which the child had received.
The Specialists and Doctors who looked after the childrens health gave
generously of their time. They were, Mr Herbert Franklin, C.D'Oyly
Grange, Mr T. Vibert Pierce, Mr A.B.Pavey Smith and Mr T. Gowans. The
position of Medical Officer of House for St George's was filled by
Dr Crawford Watson from 1898-1939 and later by Dr W. Yeoman, ably
supported by Sister Batty. Dental care was provided by
Mr. Winter of Messrs. Wood & Winter of Harrogate.
Sister Batty ran a daily morning surgery for
all of the children, when each child would be given a spoonful of Virol,
(a sort of malt extract which contained cod liver oil). Any ailments,
real or imagined, sore throats, ears, eyes etc were dealt with then and
there, temperatures taken and the child either sent to the sick wing or
told not to 'sham'. If one was admitted to the sick bay then it was
considered to be a real treat, you collected your basket of clothes and
moved in. This brought a little luxury because the sick bay had an open
fire and it was the only possible time to do some french toast ie:
toasting on one side of the bread that was already buttered.
One of the girls suffered badly from rheumatoid arthritis and no expense
was spared in her care. A separate ward was allocated for her use and a
type of wheeled box cum chair was specially built so that at the
weekends, some of the girls could push her outside and take her for
walks and give her a change of scenery.
Every Friday night, Sister Batty visited the childrens playrooms with
her trolley, on which she carried bowls of clean water, clean napkins,
spoons and the dreaded bottle of Syrup of Figs.
Sister Batty in action.
Children lined up
to have a spoonful put into their mouths, noses were held to ensure the
elixir was swallowed. Hair was washed in Derbac soap ( to prevent
lice) and then with liquid soap. Boys had their hair cut in the
shower room and on rare occasions visited the barber at his rooms in
The girls were closely monitored by the Senior Girls Matron and all
aspects of their health including their 'regularity' recorded, to ensure
that there would be no future problems in child bearing . Any child who
bit their nails had bitter aloes painted on to the finger nails by
Sister Batty. The Gymnasium too was also put to good use very
occasionally when it would be used for a 'Sex Show'. All Harrogate
Guides Groups, including St George's, of a 'certain age', were subjected
to a slide show about reproduction, with a lecture including diagrams,
given by a lady doctor. The only male in the room was the slide
projectionist at the back of the Gym !
Minor operations such as tonsils, adenoids removal were carried out at
Harrogate General Hospital, Knaresborough Road.
Sister Doris Batty
was born 29 May, 1895 in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, an only child of
Walter & Florrie Batty. Her name is recorded in the St George's
Annual report of 1937-1938, however she is remembered by some of the old
boys and girls as having been Sister in charge of the Sick Wing as early
as 1931-1932 and being a very good nurse with a kindly nature.
Parents of Sister Batty
Florrie Batty nee
One old girl recalls
that Sister used to sit with the patients and knit pure sheep wool
kneepads for her elderly mother Florrie, who suffered from athritic
joints. Yet another recalls that she was strict and sharp, but very
caring and loving towards the children.
No one can ever remember her attending morning assemblies or attending
church, no doubt due to the nature of her full time responsibilities.
She was well regarded by both Miss Knocker (Lady Superintendent) and
also by Dr Yeoman, who rated her skills very highly. Sister Batty always
wore a starched white apron over a royal blue nurse's uniform completed
by having a Nurse's pendant watch and the State Registered Nurse's
The Sick Wing was situated
at the Otley Road end of of the main building and covered two floors.
In the 1940's the girls' section was located on the ground floor and the boys were
housed on one of the floors above. There were four beds in each of the two "wards" on the ground
floor which were separated by wooden folding partitions, leaving a
walkthrough space between them which led to the wash rooms and toilets.
Sister Batty had a Sick
Wing maid who carried out polishing and general cleaning duties etc.
Sister Batty, the maid and patients were fed meals prepared in the main
kitchen, although it was not unknown for teacakes to be occasionally toasted on the
open fire in the ward. If, after morning surgery, a child was told
to report to the Sick Wing, that child would have to collect their
basket of belongings from under their bed in the dormitory, along with
dressing gown, pyjamas, towel and toothbrush and report to Sister Batty.
A private room separate
from the Ground floor Ward, was allocated for the care of Mildred
Elliott, an orphan who had contracted Rheumatoid Athritis whilst at St
George's and subsequently spent most of her teenage years there in the
care of Sister Batty.
Pearl & Mildred Elliott
(Co Durham) admitted 1939
A very close relationship developed between Sister Batty and the other
two Elliott sisters, Pearl and June and, after retiring from St George's
around 1949, Sister Batty continued to look after Mildred at her home in
Skipton St. Mildred passed away aged 31, in 1962. Sister Batty died aged
83 in 1979.
Thomas Gowans FRCS.
We have been
contacted by Sue Donlea, who kindly provided the following information
and photograph of her great uncle who
Thomas Gowans FRCS, Honorary Ophthalmic Surgeon to St George's, after
she had found his name on our web site.
Checking our copies of St George's Annual Reports we find that Thomas
Gowans is mentioned in all of the copies we have from
1936-37 right up to his retirement in 1953. He is not listed in the
1953-54 Annual Report but there is a fuller mention of his services in
"In recent months a very
old link with St George's has been severed by the retirement from
practice of Mr Thomas Gowans FRCS,who for the past 28 years has acted as consultant and adviser in his
capacity as our Honorary Ophthalmic Surgeon. His kindness will always be
remembered by the many who in their St George's days benefited from his
careful attention and the Committee would like to record their gratitude
and their appreciation of his ever-ready help.
As we wish Mr Gowans well in his retirement, we welcome as his successor
in the care of the children's eyes, Dr Edward T.Radford"
It would appear from the dates that Mr Gowans started his work with St
George's c 1925.
Thomas Gowans and
his wife Mary Berta Gowans. Photo dated 1912
It is understood that
Thomas Gowans was born in South Shields, Co Durham c1877. In 1911 the
family was living in
Abbotsford Tce, Newcastle upon Tyne. Between 1930 and 1946
he was listed as Thomas Gowans, Ophthalmic Surgeon of Lichfield East
Parade, Harrogate. Mary Berta Gowans was born about 1875, the daughter
of Robert Angus & Jane Stephenson Young of Ladykirk, Ayrshire. The
Gowans had three daughters, but no grandchildren. Their daughters were
Jean Mary Gowans
(known as Shoona) 1903 - 2004, Cynthia Alice Gowans (known as Alice)
1905 - 1930 and Edith Berta Gowans (known as Berta)
1908 - 2001.
All of the
children were inspected twice a year and all necessary treatment carried
out. The mouths are clean & healthy and as always there is a very low
incidence of dental caries. This is entirely due to the care given to
dental cleanliness and a well balanced diet. Dentist: G. Rodney
Winter, LDS. RCS. (Eng)
All of the
children had work duties for which they were responsible. The older
children would make the beds for the young ones. They in turn would dust
all of the bed frames and behind the heating pipes. The older children
polished the brass engraved nameplates which were fixed to the bedheads
(the beds and cots were often donated by various Police Forces and other
benefactors and were identified thus).
Baths, showers, hand basins and toilets were cleaned, as were the
linoleum floors (in the wash rooms and corridors), which were also
Some of the flooring was in parquet blocks and these were polished using
Ronuk and what the children called a 'plough'. Nowadays there are
electrical floor polishers to do the job but in those days, it was all
Play Rooms, Studies, Common Rooms were all cleaned by the boys and girls
who rose at 6.20am (sometimes 6am), Monday to Saturday, The boys
also usually cleaned
the Gymnasium the red and white passages and stairs. The chores, once done, were then inspected closely by the
respective Matron or Master and if 'passed', breakfast was permitted at 7.30am,
if 'failed', work had to be redone, which meant a late breakfast. We all cleaned our shoes daily
(and had 'boot parade' after breakfast), Sunday best, weekday
black, school brown, house shoes, Wellington boots and gym shoes.
Sunday being a day of rest, was free of work duties.
Shoe shine girls
Boot & shoe inspection by Miss Knocker and one of the Boy's Masters
Some of the boys doing their share of lawn
Extreme left: John Newton,
Bryan Smith, Peter Park, Mr. Gregor McTavish, aka (Jock),Housemaster, Billy Potts,
Bernard Uffindell, Doug Drummond
and Reg Bassett.