A Hebburn Tale
"I was first elected to Hebburn Council in May 1967 for the South Ward at the "tender age" of 24 .
At the time I was elected I was the youngest Councillor and was appointed as Vice-Chairman of the "Public Health & Cleansing Committee" (I think that was its name) and Cllr. Norman Laffey was the Chairman of the committee.
Just after I was elected I was invited by a well known retired Community Midwife who live just round the corner to visit her at home, as she wished to congratulate me on my election. She must have been in her late 70's or early 80's at the time and had been retired for many years.
This Community Midwife, had been a contemporary of my Aunt, Nurse Peggy Lynch who had also been a Community Midwife in Hebburn during the 50's. She said that as I was Nurse Lynch's nephew, she just wanted to meet me to say hello!
I arrived at her home one Tuesday evening (its funny but I clearly remember the day) about 7.30pm. I was offered and accepted a Sherry whilst we chatted about my Aunt and family, (looking back she was probably in the early stages of Alzheimer) when suddenly she asked me if I wanted to see her "children".
Before I could answer, she opened her sideboard and thrust a "sweet jar" into my arms which contained a "fully formed" foetus about 12" in height. As you can imagine these were the days when we young fathers were not allowed anywhere near our wives when they were giving birth. So I sat there unable to speak as she then took the sweet-jar from me. She then thrust a "test tube" in my hand to have a look at her "smallest child" again a "fully formed foetus" no bigger than my thumb. It seemed that her sideboard was a veritable human exhibit with a variety of "foetus" of various stages of development, including some which would have been born with "spina bifida".
Having given me what is "probably the most eye-opening lesson of my life", she eventually carefully, returned all the jars to the "sideboard" and asked me not tell anyone about her "children". Still in a state of semi-shock I returned home, had a "stiff whisky" and confided in my wife and my Mum.
My wife is a Consett girl and did not know the nurse. But my old Mum said it had generally been known in Hebburn but never spoken about openly, that that nurse was known to have been "sympathetic" to Mums with unwanted pregnancies. We kept the secret that the nurse had shared with me.
Two years later (about 1969) the nurse died, she apparently had no relatives,
and unbeknown to me the Council refuse collectors were asked to clear her house!
Norman Laffey and I (Chairman & Vice Chairman of the Public Health
Committee) both worked in Hawthorne Leslie's and one afternoon we got an urgent call from the Public Health Inspector to go urgently to the Council offices. There, we were to be advised that when the refuse collectors discovered what was in the nurses sideboard, they left the house and refused to go back. I always remember, that when Norman asked what the problem was, before the Public Health Inspector could answer, I said to his astonishment its the "foetus collection".
To cut a long story short, appropriate arrangements were made to have the nurse's collection quietly buried. The surprising aspect is that the refuse collectors who refused to return to the house, were requested not to talk about this matter - and never did.