I was in Glasgow when the war started and my mother had been a widow since the time of the Iolaire, and my only brother had been enlisted into the navy. And I thought it was my duty, since my mother was a widow and alone and my brother away in the war, that it was my duty to come and live near her so I gave up my post as a district nurse in Glasgow and I came home to Lewis. And at that time, they were adding two more wards to the hospital in Stornoway, and I would not be wrong in saying that another hospital in Britain could not be busier than it was, with the number of poor souls who were being admitted after being lifted from the sea since they stopped using the English Channel – as many as possible avoiding it because of the danger from the enemy. So they started going up by the east coast of Britain – those who were going to Canada and America and those countries. Instead of going through the English Channel as they did before, they started going up the east coast of Britain and passing us to the north of us. But the Germans were not long in finding out about this ... and that route was eventually as dangerous as the route through the English Channel. And they were sinking, they were sinking our ships, many of them north of us and east of us and west of us also. And when some of them perhaps managed to get into the lifeboats, they could spend perhaps a week or two weeks in these little boats without much food or water either. And some of them would be in a bad way and some of them would be dead, but those of them who were still alive would be, they would be sent to us at the hospital in Stornoway and so we were very busy indeed. And there was a lot of work involved in looking after them. Some of them had been burnt by the oil on the surface of the water ... when that oil went on fire as they were attempting to get through it in a small rowing boat. They were in a terrible way with burns, but we would do our best for them. It was a matter of great rejoicing when we managed to get anyone in that situation through to a stage when he could go home or be able to re-join the army or the navy where he had been. And I spent over a year there, but out in the country where we are now they were seeking a district nurse and I applied for the job and got it. And I was there until I got married. And am still here.

  • Marion MacLeod (Mor Bhrù)
Friday 19th February 2010