Mary Ridgeway's memories/3

No NHS - and I nearly die of a burst appendix

When I was 19 years old I was taken very ill with stomach pain. Mother used to say if you could eat there was nothing wrong with you, and we couldn’t have a doctor again as Dad had broken his arm and that had to be paid for. There was no NHS in those days. However when I went to bed the pain was so intense that I was sick. Then for me it was suddenly wonderful - the pain gone, the birds were singing, yet I could see my parents crying and wishing that the doctor had been sent for. I had no power to speak and say I was fine.

The doctor and then an ambulance came - a very rare occasion then, I was taken to East Reach Hospital in Taunton. Still I wanted to tell everyone that I was fine but had no power to do so. Then I watched the doctors operating on my stomach, and saying “Enough, stitch her up she’s gone, just put in some drainage tubes”. A nurse then had a bad nose bleed and was reprimanded as it was not the first time it had happened to her in theatre. I felt so sorry for her, but again couldn’t speak.

 The next thing I was aware of was, I suppose, the next day. I was in a ward and the same nurse was sitting by my bed. I asked if she was better and she said why? When I told her what I had seen she went white as a sheet and said I couldn’t have seen her as I was sedated and having an operation. I told her about that too, then she was gone so quickly returning with two doctors. They then told me that my appendix had burst and that was when the pain had stopped and it was peritonitis.  I found out later that my parents had been told that I had no chance of recovery.

After months of draining off the poisons, I went home and gradually got stronger The two pence per week we used to pay for Hospital treatment covered all the costs.

Read more of Mary's Clayhidon memories:
 - At school in Battle Street with a slate and no paper
- My working life begins at 14
- My wonderful dad: horse whisperer and first car owner in theparish

How teenagers had fun in 1937

There was some free time. I used to sing in the church choir, was Hon Secretary of the WI at 14 and Hon Treasurer of the Tennis Club. At 17 I was allowed to go to dances accompanied by my sister, who was not yet 14. I didn’t think she should go at that age as I had to wait until 17. I felt very restricted.

Going ratting and rabbiting was supposed to be part of the country excitement too. I have done plenty of that in my time with the help of our terriers and of course there was badger digging

As a family we would occasionally pack up a picnic and have that out on Woodbury Common, then go on to Sidmouth or Seaton. The trip took a lot of planning and preparation – sandwiches, Thermos flasks etc – and Quaker Oats to put in the car radiator when it leaked. Then we would go back to Moretonhampstead to see Aunt Annie who had brought Mum up. Being one of 13 children the older sisters did this. Aunt Annie had married a farmer, which is how Mum and Dad met. Dad worked for my Auntie Annie and Uncle Daniel Harvey.

Doss and I used to walk to Wellington and back 10 miles. That was about the most exciting that life got, but we were quite content with our lot as we knew no other.