Every Picture Tells a Story in the World of Bobbie Hanvey: Looking Back on a Lifetime of Caring; Kathleen Duncan Remembers Her Childhood on the Colebrooke Estate in Fermanagh before Going out into the World to Begin Her Career as a Nurse

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), June 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

Every Picture Tells a Story in the World of Bobbie Hanvey: Looking Back on a Lifetime of Caring; Kathleen Duncan Remembers Her Childhood on the Colebrooke Estate in Fermanagh before Going out into the World to Begin Her Career as a Nurse


Byline: Bobbie Hanvey

THE News Letter was dated March 23, 1965, and on page 10 I examined one of the best photographs I have ever seen.

It showed Lord and Lady Brookeborough and his favourite dog Lola standing in front of the old gamekeeper's cottage on the Colebrooke Estate.

The paper informed us that he was now 'donating' this house to the local Girl Guides. The photographer was Cecil McCausland and I wondered where he was now, if he used a Rolliflex camera for the shot and would like to meet him, if at all possible.

Kathleen Duncan, from Brookeborough, told me that the old house in the photograph had been her home for the six months after she was born. Her family then moved to a bigger two-storey building which her nephew still occupies.

Kathleen explained: "When I attended Colebrooke PE School in the mid- 1920s, our teacher, Master Simpson, lived in the old cottage. Our school had 50 pupils on the roll and there was this big water-tank in the grounds behind it. Little steps led up to it and it was always covered with green slime and little creepy crawlies, as we called them.

"We all used to go and look into the tank and this particular day the schoolmaster's son, Hal, climbed up onto the side of the tank, fell in and disappeared.

"A boy called Herbie Kirk, the brother of our old next-door neighbour George, and I retrieved him from the water and brought him round to his father who gave us half-a-crown each for saving Hal. The Master then put him on the bar of his bicycle and took him home.

"Then, when reading this New Year's Honours List, whose name should I see only Hal's. He had been to Buckingham Palace and received his award from the Queen. It was a lovely surprise."

I told Kathleen I'd heard there had been great excitement in her home on the day when Sir Basil Brooke got some good news.

"That's right. I was in England nursing at the time and I heard all about it. Sir Basil got the message that he had been knighted in the New Year's Honours List. He came running to tell my father and came running through the kitchen and up the stairs to the bedroom where my father was lying with an injured leg. He was so excited and he took my father over to London with him where he received the Order of the Garter, which is one of the highest awards anybody can get."

In 1938, after receiving nursing magazines from a friend in England, Kathleen decided that this would be her profession.

She recalled: "When I decided to do nursing I went to the doctor, TS Taylor, for a medical. he told me to take a seat and immediately began to write out a letter to the hospital, put it in an envelope and handed it to me.

"But doctor," I said, "are you not going to do my medical?"

"That's it," he laughed. "There you have it in the envelope. Sure I knew you before you were born."

"On the day when I left Brookeborough to go to nursing I got the bus to Belfast at Stonepark Cross. …

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Every Picture Tells a Story in the World of Bobbie Hanvey: Looking Back on a Lifetime of Caring; Kathleen Duncan Remembers Her Childhood on the Colebrooke Estate in Fermanagh before Going out into the World to Begin Her Career as a Nurse
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