Margaret Pearl Fraser

Tapestry series no. 35

Contributed by Jeanie Ross Fraser

In an acknowledgement of my mother Margaret Pearl Chaffey, married name Fraser, the first trained nurse from the Glen Innes Hospital.

Margaret was born on 4th June 1887 in Armidale. She was the third daughter of Margaret Nee Adams of Singleton and Joseph William, the eldest son of Joseph William who came to Tamworth October 1853 from Tintenbull in Somerset.

She was educated at Miss Crossman’s School in Armidale and was Dux of their finishing classes.

Margaret always wanted to train as a nurse but due to the financial constraints of the late 1890s and early 1900s she joined her eldest sister Violet in a dress making venture to pay off their father’s coach building debts.

All the family spent holidays or worked with their Aunt Lilly and Uncle James F Chaffey on the Glen Innes dairy farm “Lillydale”.

In 1879 the Glen Innes people had established a small hospital by public subscription.

Its board of Management consisted of capable, efficient businessmen. They aimed at making the institution a training school for nurses when the bed capacity increased to ten.

The Australian Trained Nurses Association held the regulations for nursing and set the examinations. The secretary of the board was asked to write and secure recognition. It was granted about 1911. They also organised the building of a small Nurse’s home in the beautiful garden to provide accommodation.

Arrangements were made for the Medical Officers Drs Jock and Arthur Mackenzie to give medical and surgical lectures. A hospital trained matron attended to the techniques of patient care. Invalid cooking lessons were given by the Nuns of the St. Joseph’s order in their newly completed convent buildings.

In June 1912 Margaret commenced her training course at Glen Innes hospital on a salary of twenty pounds per annum. In small country hospitals the course entailed five years work and study. Nurses had one day off per month as their workload permitted and a few hours off during the day likewise.

Margaret belonged to the local hockey team and played golf when time permitted as the course was quite nearby. Now twenty-five years of age, Margaret was a capable and very conscientious nurse, which meant she often worked alone. She nursed in the Isolation ward for almost a total of two years of the training, much of that time on night duty. Margaret found operating theatre nursing interesting and soon became much sought after by the medical staff during surgery. In these days nursing staff were responsible for the careful cleaning of the walls, furniture and floors as well as the instrumentation needed for operation. Her autograph book contained a very graphic sketch of her at work in the operating theatre.

Examinations were set by the ATNA and in 1917 Margaret travelled by train to Newcastle hospital where she stayed for a few days, sitting there for her written and oral examinations. She passed successfully and was given a letter of introduction and the results were published in the ATNA journal. Nurses’ registration did not come into being until 1927 though it had been requested from 1912 or so.

Margaret applied to enlist in the Australian army nursing service but as she lost the sight of one eye playing representative hockey (country vs city) at St. Marks oval, Randwick, she was not accepted. She nursed at the Coast Infectious hospital, Little Bay under Miss MacMaster from Glen Innes. She was a senior sister at the David Berry Memorial Hospital and Yass district hospital in the following years.

During Margaret’s time at Yass, she assisted several well-known Macquarie street surgeons in major surgical operations. They wrote her special references of their own free will as they appreciated her work so much.

Next, she applied and was accepted for the appointment as Matron at Inverell in order to be nearer home.

She was well regarded as an efficient administrator and a very popular, caring nurse with both patients and staff.

From Inverell Margaret met and married my father David John Fraser. The ceremony was held in the newly appointed Manse of the Cameron Memorial Presbyterian church in Glen Innes. Later on I was Christened there!

The first four years were spent in camps, as David was a Scots Engineer and a well-boring contractor in the Coolatai/Yetman area.

Finally they purchased a grazing property “Kerriwgair”, once part of Yallaroi station.

Margaret was widowed in October 1941 and died herself from carcinoma of the breast in 1942.

A lovely caring lady who brought much help and love amongst her family and friends in beautiful New England and the North West slopes of New South Wales.