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The PatientThe Patient. Presidency Hospital Calcutta August 1934

The merchant vessel docked at Calcutta for general repairs. It was fortunate for the first mate. He had not been feeling well for some time and unknown to him his appendix was on the point of erupting. So his first port of call was not really Calcutta. It was to the local hospital as an admission for an emergency appendisectomy (now known as appendectomy). He didn’t remember much about it until he started to come round in unfamiliar surroundings.

‘I say Trix, have you seen the new arrival on our ward. He looks a bit like John Barrymore,’ whispered Jean as she passed her friend in the corridor. ‘Only wish I could stay on duty a bit longer, but after the nightshift I don’t think I could manage it. See what you think and give me your verdict tonight after tea.’

Beatrice smiled as she headed for the ward. Jean thought all the young male patients were handsome, so she would reserve her own judgement on this new admission. As she did the rounds, she spotted him in a bed near the doorway.

‘Hello there Ginger,’ a quavering voice called out. It called again and Beatrice knew she was being addressed. She marched over to the bedside, only to observe a very drowsy, dour looking face.

‘Were you calling me?’ she said in her most starchy voice.

‘Och aye.’

‘Well don’t you dare talk to me in that manner? I am Staff Nurse Mason to you.’ And with that she flounced off, flicking her red fringe from her forehead as she did so.

Fancy calling me Ginger, indeed. What a liberty, she thought. This patient was clearly not in need of her assistance.

The patient, namely William Turnbull Lowey, did not feel at all well. His insides felt as if they had been run over by a steam roller and a hammer was pounding his head. For a brief moment he thought he was home in Greenock and had caught a glimpse of his girl from neighbouring Inverkip. He was certain he had seen her red hair flashing in front of his eyes.

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William Turnbull Lowey

He vaguely realised he must have imagined it though, because he had been at sea for the past eight months. The room swayed and the comfort of his ship beckoned as he slid once more into semi consciousness.

Beatrice felt a little guilty that she had been so short with the new admission, but as newly appointed staff nurse in charge of the surgical ward, she was aware that young male patients, particularly seamen, needed firmly reminding of their place.

Over the next few days, she got to know William better. His Scottish accent, his looks, everything about him in fact, beguiled her. The pair formed as close rapport as was possible under the eagle eye of the sister in charge. Beatrice knew it wouldn’t be long before William was discharged and returned to his ship. No longer would she be dismissive when her patients complained of missed heartbeats, palpitations and leaden legs.

‘Well Trix, what do you think of him?’ Jean had asked.

‘Who? Oh you mean that Scottish sailor. He’s all right I suppose. A bit arrogant and I can’t always understand him.’ But Beatrice knew that she found him very attractive indeed.

After almost two weeks, William announced that he would like to take Beatrice to the pictures on his discharge from hospital.

‘What about your ship?’ she said.

‘My ship couldn’t delay departure any longer and has already sailed without me, so I’ve arranged to stay here for a while in the Seaman’s Mission and get a job doing ship repairs.’

So the romance of William Turnbull Lowey and Beatrice Mary Mason began. A romance between the convent educated daughter from a devout Roman Catholic family and the son of strict Scottish Presbyterians.

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The Story of Beatrice Mary Mason. Written by F. J. Louis | Copyright © 2009