There are no specific healthcare facilities in the parish itself. An ambulance service was available from Haddington in 1945, but no paramedic till the 1980s. A district nurse was resident in Gifford in the early 1950s until she retired; in the mid 1970s, the service was based in Haddington. There was no doctor’s surgery in the parish.
The doctor usually was called in only if parents felt they could not cope with the problem themselves, also many people could hardly afford doctor’s visits. Our own doctor never charged for most of the visits we had. In the 1950s there was still a risk of TB. One girl lived outside in an open summerhouse. Poliomyelitis was also a risk for younger people; there was one case in the village before vaccine became available. Also pneumonia, because effective drugs were not then available.
Childhood ailments – chickenpox, mumps, measles and rubella – were common, these were usually spread around school or by younger children playing together. It was considered a good thing if children had these illnesses before puberty in case of complications through rubella for pregnant women, or mumps affecting fertility in men.
First aid remedies included vinegar cloths for bruises, butter for minor burns, salt for gargles for sore throats, cold tea to bathe eyes, oil of cloves for toothache, a sock full of coarse salt heated to soothe a sore ear, washing blue for bee stings and a cut onion applied to wasp stings.
Maternity care was provided at the Vert Memorial hospital, Haddington, general care at Roodlands, and convalescent care at East Fortune until the mid 1990s.
In 1945 pregnancy was usually confirmed right away by an examination by a doctor who also listened for a heartbeat. In later years urine was tested and an ultrasound scan was available. The pregnancy home test kit also became available. Pregnant women would be advised to follow a healthy regime, stop smoking etc. In 1945 there was not much in the way of pre-natal care, but later regular visits were made for check-ups. X-rays were also used before the dangers of over exposure were realised.
It was more usual to have one’s baby in a maternity hospital, usually on doctor’s advice, which meant longer journeys for visitors if one lived in the countryside, However some mothers opted for a home delivery, with help from a member of the family, probably granny (especially if there were other children at home), with the district nurse in attendance. She could be summoned by telephone, as could the doctor. Neither was resident in the village at that time. Later Nurse McBain was resident in the village from 1950s until she retired. The Vert Hospital was also available, also the Simpson’s Memorial Hospital and the Eastern General in Edinburgh after the Vert closed.
In 1947 I was in hospital for a week (in bed) and the district nurse visited for aftercare plus a doctor’s examination about six weeks after the birth. Now mothers are home within a few days and and are encouraged to be up and about to avoid thrombosis. Home visits are made by midwives.
In the past fathers were normally not present at the birth especially when mother was taken off to hospital but would go to telephone [the] doctor or ambulance. Modern fathers attend pre-natal classes with their wives (though not all), but on the whole take a more active part in the pregnancy. In the 1940s I do not remember a lot of aftercare for the up to four year olds.
Coins used to be given to a new baby eg a two shilling piece would be put in the baby’s hand to ensure that he/she would never be short of money during later life. There was a great stigma in being a single mother in 1945 but gradually opinions have changed on this subject. One must take into consideration that there was no help from the state and single mums had to take work as housekeepers etc. in order to provide a home for their child, whereas now there are state benefits to be had. … there are smaller families since the advent of the contraceptive pill.
Both in the past and now, working mothers had to rely on family or neighbours to look after children while they were at work. There is one childminder in the village. Playgroups have been in evidence from the 1960s, but many mothers attend with the children. The playgroup received £3000 grant from the National Lottery in 2000. One family provides foster care.
No serious cases of child abuse have been reported in the parish, but the old habit of a smack for a naughty child has had to be reconsidered in case one is reported for child abuse. The strap has, of course, been banned from schools. [I] know of only one case of mental and sexual abuse and one of physical abuse, both of which resulted in prosecutions.
For eye care one went to the doctor or to an optician in Haddington or Edinburgh.
There was a school dentist service that came round to schools after 1953. Older people went to dentists in Haddington, Tranent or Edinburgh. The council chiropody service van came to the village school from around 1955, for the elderly to attend.
Home helps were, and still are, available in one’s home, though hours and duties are more restricted now than earlier. A Meals-on-Wheels service was operated from school kitchens but since the late 1990s, meals are distributed frozen for economy. Redcroft Convalescent Home, North Berwick was owned by the Co-operative Society, and any Co-op member could apply.
In 1945, older people were respected and it was usual for grannies and grandfathers to remain at home. Grannies usually lived longer, and helped with looking after children to allow parents to work. Grandparents were also a useful source of information and advice.
In general families try to look after their aged parents at home for as long as possible. When the parent’s illness would become so severe (like dementia), that the family’s home life and routine was severely disrupted, then putting the parent into care would be a last resort. While social services provide all sorts of aids to assist physically handicapped elderly people, sometimes the care required is more than the family can cope with. Older people have a great deal of experience to contribute to the community, but unfortunately, the modern way of life tends to regard them as fairly unimportant.
There are no support services for people with a range of problems based in the parish, and no voluntary/charity services either. If possible people were cared for at home and were accepted by the community. A physically disabled child was usually cared for at home with visits to hospital for physiotherapy.
In 1945 there was still a stigma attached to a mental problem. A person suffering from what might be called stress nowadays would be said to be having a nervous breakdown and would probably go into a mental hospital for rest and medication. Psychiatric clinics, such as the Davidson clinic in Edinburgh were becoming more popular but were not numerous enough to cope with the number of patients. Going into a mental hospital often meant being in contact with completely insane patients – quite a short, sharp, shock. Gradually more effective drugs have been developed which can better control mental health problems. Many long-term patients have been allowed out of hospital to live in supervised homes. Autistic children are mainly kept at home with help from drugs and play schools etc.
There was the growing problem of addictions: in 1945 women did not go to public houses as a rule, although the war had changed attitudes greatly. The pub was for men and there were a few who drank too much and were held in low esteem because of the hardship this meant for their families. Teenagers had very little money, being on low wages, and could not afford to buy alcohol. Gradually, as wages have increased, teenagers have become used to drinking, some of them at quite a young age. Drinking for adults is now part of the social scene and is now more acceptable.
The use of tobacco was widespread in 1945, glamorised by the cinema and advertising. It was not fully realised then what a bad affect it had on health (cancer etc.). Cigarettes were also fairly cheap at that time. Now that we are more aware of the dangers of smoking, many people have given up or at least cut down. Unfortunately, more young people are continuing to smoke.
Drug abuse has always been regarded as a bad thing. Younger people now seem to regard taking drugs such as Ecstasy to enhance enjoyment as quite acceptable, but older people do not agree.
There is one case where a teenager was talked into taking drugs and got severely into debt, stole from … family to pay off dealers and almost ruined … life. The police are keeping an eye on the drugs problem in the parish.
And a more general comment
… it would appear that youngsters are maturing sooner and as they are now earning more, some are indulging in smoking and drinking earlier. Unfortunately, drugs have appeared on the scene during the 1980s and 1990s and there is evidence that there is some drug taking, of which the police are aware. It would also appear that youngsters are having sex in their teens and some are using the contraceptive pill to avoid teenage pregnancy.