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Nurse Annie Maclean
Nurse Annie Maclean
Nurse Annie Maclean of Uig (Uig News).
"She entered into homes of sickness and sorrow as an angel of mercy, whose very presence brought hope and comfort with it. She was strong and firm, gentle and kind, and bright and cheerful." The Reverend James MacNiven (Ceann Langabhat) wrote these words in 1915 about Nurse Annie Maclean, more commonly called Nurse Rhuadh. Between 1906 and 1915 she walked, with the aid of a stick, the length and breadth of West Uig, administering to the sick.
She was born in Crowlista in 1872. Her grandparents were Malcolm Maclean and Kirsty (Macaulay). Malcolm was one of those cleared from Balnicol in the early part of the 19th century. At first he was landless, but in the 1841 census, he is recorded as having a croft in Crowlista. One of his sons Peter, married Janet Morrison and they had 9 children, of which Annie was the fifth.
Towards the end of the 1890s, Annie left home to train as a nurse in Glasgow. Part of her training was in an asylum, and she gained Proficiency in Nursing of Insane Persons in 1903. By 1905 she had completed a Certificate of Midwifery, and in that year she took up the post of District Nurse for West Uig. For 9 years she worked in a large area without transport of her own. At that time it was not seen as necessary or affordable, to provide any better means of reaching her patients. "She put up with many difficulties and inconveniences, and the weather was often wet and strong. Calls often came in the darkest nights and often crowded on one another and conflicting together.... But she willingly and promptly answered every call to the utmost of her ability, and did not spare herself, often sacrificing rest and keep in order to bring help and relief to the sick and suffering." This praise was written by Rev. MacNiven, President of the West Uig Nursing Committee, in a thank you letter to Annie Maclean.
She was appointed as District Nurse and Midwife of Tarbert in Harris in 1915. The people of Uig were very disappointed that she was leaving but were extremely very grateful for what she had done for them. At a presentation in the Manse, she was given a handsome bicycle (of very good quality). The event was attended by Lady Belper of Uig Lodge, her two daughters Mrs. Macrae and Miss Dorothy, Master Kenneth Macrae, Mrs.Macleod of Ardroil House, Mrs. and Miss Macrae of Timsgarry Farm, Mr.and Mrs. Macleod of Crowlista Schoolhouse, Mrs. Mackinnon, and members of the Uig Manse. One anonymous donor had paid for the bicycle. The Rev Allan Mackenzie (Baile na Cille) performed the presentation and thanked the Nurse for her 9 years of work in the parish. She was overwhelmed by the occasion and could not reply herself, but asked the Minister to speak for her. He told the assembled company that Nurse Maclean was deeply touched by their kindness, and despite being called to another area she would never forsake the Parish of Uig. She also wanted them to know that she would never enter the bonds of matrimony, so that she might be unfettered and free to devote her life to her work. Everyone applauded this! The Minister suggested that her resolution may be difficult to keep, but he hastened to assure her that she "could carry her bicycle, as private property, into a state of wedded bliss, if this should happen".
Nurse Rhuadh spent the next 25 years as District Nurse and Midwife to the people of Tarbert. Her nursing there must have been of the same exceptionally high standard because after her death on 25th December 1939, the people of Tarbert showed their affection and gratitude for her devotion to service, by providing an inscribed headstone for her grave in Ardroil burial ground.
During her time as Nurse in Uig, the nearest doctor was at Garynahine. The general population were very reluctant to call him, because of the expense of doing so, which meant that Nurse Maclean was often the first, and only responder in an emergency. Judging by all the fulsome praise heaped on her in life, as well as in death, Annie Maclean must have been an exceptional and remarkable person. The "Uig Bicycle" was very useful in Harris! She was also true to her word; she never did marry but instead devoted her whole life to nursing the sick.