Post 43 Hanky Panky in the Hospital Residency


Mrs Bridget Conlon’s job title at the hospital was Domestic Supervisor; her area of responsibility, the doctor’s residency. She had held the job for as long as anyone could remember. Her job description stated that she was employed to manage all aspects of the catering and accommodation for the 20 or so young doctors for whom the residency was home. This comprised a dining room, a large lounge, two communal washrooms and a single room for each of the doctors. However, in her heart, she knew that her principal role was not to manage the building and the services within it but to guide the newly-qualified doctors safely through the rigours of their twelve-month internship.  A giant of a woman with an equally large heart, she was fiercely protective of the young men and women in her care. She undertook the role of a mother hen, not by smothering them with kindness as a nurse might do with sick children, rather she applied the firm but fair hand of the regimental sergeant major.

Mrs Conlon ensured not only that the doctors were well-fed, but also that they took care of their own health. If they were summoned to deal with a sick patient whilst eating their evening meal, she would issue a stern rebuke.

 ‘You’ll be no use to your patients, young Lady,’ she would say, ‘if you rush your meal and give yourself an ulcer. Who’s going to look after them if you become ill?’

And like a good mother, she was also capable of a stern reprimand; ‘You let yourself down, young Sir, using language like that. You wouldn’t be using words like that at home now, would you?’

Equally, any young doctor whose room was left untidy would be admonished and given an ultimatum; ‘I want to see this room spick and span by dinner time... or else!’

Known to the young doctors as ‘Bridie’ she was loved and respected by them all.

Bridie was assisted by two young cleaners, Mary Murphy and Marie Maguire who hailed from County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland, which, perhaps not by chance, happened to be Bridie’s country of birth.

One day Mary and Marie, both good Catholic girls, came to speak with Bridie in a state of considerable distress.

 ‘Mrs Conlon’ they wailed, ‘two of the doctors have gone and done a terrible thing. They’ve moved their two beds into one of their rooms and put the chairs and cupboards into the other.’

‘And the names of the two doctors?’

‘Dr Webster and Dr Potter in rooms 11 and 12. Side by side, the beds are, in room 12, Mrs Conlon. We’re fearful worried for the doctors.’

‘That would be Dr Anne Webster and Dr Bernard Potter. Well, please go immediately and replace the furniture as it ought to be. There will be no sinful hanky panky in the residency whilst I am in charge!’

When the two doctors returned to their rooms that evening, they were irritated to find that their convivial domestic arrangement had been disturbed.

‘Where we place the furniture in our own rooms is our business and nobody else’s,’ Anne said.

‘Agreed, those girls have a damn cheek,’ Bernard replied, as they quickly reorganised things for their own convenience and pleasure.

The next day, the two doctors went about their duties on the wards as usual, only to find, to their great annoyance, when they returned to their rooms in the evening, that their two single beds had once more been placed in separate rooms.

On the third morning, Bridie, having again been alerted by Mary and Marie, went in person to investigate and was appalled to find the two beds snuggling side by side in room 12. Even more shocking, on further investigation, she found an empty silver foil packet in the wastepaper basket.

‘Mother Mary, this is quite intolerable,’ she muttered to herself as she again instructed her girls to return the furniture to its proper place. She was responsible for the building, for the standard of behaviour within it and this was conduct she simply would not allow.

The beds were moved to and fro, morning and evening, for two further days. All the while, Bridie, Mary, and Marie were getting more and more indignant that the two young doctors were living in sin, whilst the doctors were becoming increasingly angry that the maids were creating work for them, undermining their cosy domestic arrangement, and trying to tell them how to lead their lives.

 Finally, Bridie decided the situation could not be tolerated any longer; enough was enough, action must be taken. It was, however, not a situation she had met before, and she was uncertain how best to proceed. Whilst determined to stop such wicked conduct, she felt she would not feel comfortable confronting the doctors face to face on a matter of such delicacy.

After due consideration, she decided it would be easier to write to them rather than risk an embarrassing verbal exchange. She then spent an agonising day drafting and redrafting a strongly worded letter, reproaching them on their unholy behaviour, and reminding them of the Sixth of God’s ten commandments ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’.  When finally satisfied that the letter conveyed her displeasure and censure in suitable terms, she went to room 12, the one that had become a double bedroom. She placed her letter in a prominent position on the bedside cabinet where it could not possibly be overlooked.

However, when she opened the door, she was surprised to discover there was no space on the cabinet. The doctors had forestalled her by leaving a copy of their marriage certificate, two large framed photographs of their wedding day - and a couple of packets of Durex for good measure.

Thought for the day

Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life.                                    Lord Melbourne 1779 - 1848

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