Hester Meakin This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 193
  • Subject No: 194
  • Broadcast: Mon 23 Apr 1962
  • Broadcast time: 8-8.30pm
  • Recorded: Mon 26 Mar 1962 7.30pm
  • Venue: BBC Television Theatre
  • Series: 7
  • Edition: 30

on the guest list...

  • Ron Simpson
  • Alma Simpson
  • Anna Simpson
  • Mrs Simpson senior - 'Grannie'
  • Mary McCallum
  • Hector McCallum
  • Robert Cunningham
  • Winifred Upchurch
  • Mr & Mrs Fred Lethbridge
  • Fred Lethbridge Jr
  • Edward Brown
  • Sergeant Alec Dunlop
  • Mae Phillans
  • Nurse Hester Hope Fraser
  • Hope McDonald – sister
  • John McDonald – brother-in-law

production team...

  • Researchers: Arthur Sellwood, John Ralph
  • Writer: Arthur Sellwood
  • Director: Yvonne Littlewood
  • Producer: T Leslie Jackson
related page...

A Medical Life

examining the medical profession

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Photographs of Hester Meakin This Is Your Life

District Nursing article

An account of Hester Meakin's This Is Your Life was published in the June 1962 edition of District Nursing...


A slightly bewildered, retired district nurse was greeted with those words by Eamonn Andrews outside the Queen’s Institute one morning in March. Miss Hester Meakin had made the 550-mile journey from Insch, Aberdeenshire, to London the previous day “to attend a conference”.

Shortly before she left her hotel that morning, a telephone call lured her to the Institute “to meet a friend”. She was greatly surprised to meet instead a BBC television camera team with producer Leslie Jackson and Eamonn Andrews.

Over a cup of coffee, Mr Jackson promised lots of friends at the television studio that evening, when This Is Your Life would be filmed for transmission on Easter Monday. Meanwhile, what would Miss Meakin like to do during the day – shop, sight-see, visit a cinema or theatre? A car was at her disposal. She chose the theatre. This was only Miss Meakin’s second visit to London, and she was thrilled at Mr Jackson’s promise of a return journey by air, her first flight.

Miss Meakin quickly became used to the idea of appearing on television, and was soon telling of her experiences in the district. She related how, after she had made a school health visit, one small boy went home and told his mother that Nursie had run her hand up the back of his head; what had she done that for? “She was looking for brains” replied his mother. “Oh!” said the boy, “she said there was nothing there”.

Hester Meakin took her general, midwifery and district nurse training in Edinburgh. From 1933 until she retired in 1958, she worked as a district nurse in Scotland, spending the last nineteen years in Insch, where she now lives in retirement.

She wonders how she had time to carry out all the duties of district nurse, for her time is now fully occupied. Miss Meakin loves gardening and is glad to be able to give more and better attention to her plants. Another activity in which she is particularly interested is Civil Defence work; she is at present training a class of fourteen.

On Easter Monday, Eamonn Andrews introduced the programme with a flash from the film District Nurse. He went on: “Hester Meakin, nurse, midwife, helper, adviser, comforter, friend – in short, district nurse – this is your life. As famous as any film star in that craggy corner of Scotland you have tended for so many years. You’ve a friend for every mile you’ve tramped on your rounds. And that is why tonight we have prepared a casebook of our own, a casebook of memories that tell the story of just one district nurse.”

Just one district nurse … Hester Meakin had asked the producer “Why me?” and Mr Jackson gave her no direct answer. We are sure Miss Meakin will agree with our suggestion that for one night she represented all district nurses. What district nurse, looking at the television screen or at the pictures on these pages, could not see patients, friends and situations familiar in her life? With this programme, the BBC, consciously or unconsciously, paid a public tribute to the life of the district nurse.

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As she journeyed by overnight train to London, Miss Hester Meakin, district nurse at Insch, Aberdeenshire, wondered what sort of training was ahead of her on the three-day course she had been invited to attend at the London Civil Defence College.

Even after almost half a century in nursing Miss Meakin took up the study and practice of Civil Defence, and graduated quickly to the role of lecturer on this important problem in her own Aberdeenshire parish.

She had led her defence team to victory in local competition. Modestly but proudly she accepted the visit to London as a recognition of that work.

Little did she know what was ahead of her.


In the gloomy and somewhat raw early-morning atmosphere of London’s King’s Cross rail terminus she was met by a small reception committee, who saw so well to her comfort all day that it was evening before she realised she had not even heard a word about defence, never mind seeing the C.D. College.

“No,” she told her charmimg hostess in the afternoon. “I have never seen Cinerama.” So off to Cinerama they went.

At last a taxi was called to take them to the college.

But as Miss Meakin stepped from the car and began politely to protest that this was not their destination, a tall broad-shouldered smiling man approached with typical Irish courtesy.

And in Stanleysian fashion he startled Miss Meakin into her first realisation of what this journey to London really meant.

“Oh, you are Eamonn Andrews,” she exclaimed.

And that was when she discovered that the BBC had selected her for the highest honour it can confer on outstanding citizens – to be the ‘star’ of This is Your Life.

Miss Meakin, whose great service to district nursing has so long been admired and appreciated in Aberdeenshire, was chosen not only for her own wonderful work through a life-time of nursing but as the representative of the entire district nursing profession.


After that first electrifying shock, she faced up to several quick-fire emotional, but nevertheless delightful, surprises.

How many years had it been, she pondered, since she brought that first tinker bairn into the world in a hut at Colpy Quarry.

The BBC research team had done a marvellous job.

As one of them told me: “It was really like looking for a needle in a hay-stack when we went out to find the McCallum tinker family who had camped near Insch sixteen years ago.”

“We searched Scotland and at last fond them. And tonight they are on the programme.”

The ‘baby’, Hector, now an obviously out-of-door healthy youth, and his mother were there to pay their tributes.

Mrs McCallum recalled that Nurse Meakin told her not to worry “for the greatest baby in the world had been born in a place none better than the hut at Colpy Quarry.”

Nurse Meakin’s early days in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, came back to her when a voice sounded off-stage.

Seconds after the owner wheeled himself through the curtains to reveal Mr Robert Cunningham, of Dysart, who broke his back in a pit accident in 1929 and was a long-term patient.


“Nobody was ever long in the dumps when Nurse Meakin was around,” was the compliment he had to pay, adding an unintended spoonerism: “She played in a Christmas sketch called ‘The Rescuer’ and had all the patients in stitches.”

From Aberdeenshire were two friends to give praise to Nurse Meakin’s wonderful service at Insch.

The farming dialect was strong when another “mystery” voice said: “Nursie, whit are ye daein oot in this terrible weather?”

It brought back memories of one of the worst blizzards experienced in Aberdeenshire some forty years ago when Nurse Meakin in gum boots and wintercoat, set out over the field to attend her patients.

The speaker was Farmer Edward Brown, of Newbiggin, Leslie, who accompanied her, going ahead flattening the snow and digging a passage through yard by yard.

A younger member of the Insch community whom Nurse Meakin attended at birth and who took her Christian name, Nurse Hester Fraser, of Insch Hospital, had also travelled secretly to London to speak for those who knew Miss Meakin from their earliest childhood days.

Nurse Fraser is the daughter of Mr and Mrs Alex Fraser, Hassiewells, Rothienorman.

As in all good stories the big ‘jackpot’ surprise was left to the last few pages.

Could it be the voice of her sister Hope, coming over the radio from her home in Toronto, 3000 miles away?


Nurse Meakin knew that voice but it was some moments before she found her sister was only a few yards away behind the stage props. Soon they were in each other’s arms.

And yet another surprise – Mrs Hope Macdonald was not alone. Her Dundee-born husband was there, too.

That was something even the BBC had not arranged. When they heard Mrs Macdonald was being flown over for the programme the family rallied round and financed the air trip of Mr Macdonald so that he could join the happy party.

It all ended in that happy family way...

But as the cameras stopped turning, Nurse Meakin, who had weathered a tremendously trying, even if pleasant interlude, with true nurses’ fortitude, had still another treat for the live audience in the television theatre.

She related one typically Aberdeenshire experience in the Doric.

A little Insch boy told his mother Nurse Meakin had been at the school – it was the regular medical inspection – and had run her hands through his hair several times and studied his head.

“Foo did she dae that, Ma?” he demanded. “Well,” said his mother tactfully, “she had been looking for your brains.”

“Weel, Ma,” replied the lad, “a’ she said wis, ‘I canna see onything there’”

The final surprise came when Eamonn Andrews announced that although Mr and Mrs Macdonald were flying home a few days later to Canada, Nurse Meakin would follow later aboard the liner Empress of Britain for a holiday with her relatives as guest of the BBC.

Captions – Miss Meakin with Mr Robert Cunningham, of Dysart, whom she nursed after he broke his back in a pit accident in 1929.

Farmer E Brown, of Leslie, and Nurse Hester Fraser, of Insch Hospital, get together with Miss Meakin after the programme.

newspaper cutting

Evening Express Tuesday April 24 1962

Insch ‘in the know’

Insch people had been ‘in the know’ about the subject of last night’s This Is Your Life BBC TV programme and there were few who were not tuned in to see the story of Miss Hester Meakin, district nurse at Insch.

Miss Mabel Cruickshank, matron at Insch Hospital, arranged for all the patients to see Miss Meakin being interviewed.

But the one person who was not able to see the recorded programme was Miss Meakin herself. She is on her way to Canada in the Empress of Britain for a three-month stay with her sister, Mrs Macdonald, who had been flown over by jet from Toronto to take part in the programme.

Miss Meakin is making the trip as guest of the BBC.


They may arrange to give her a private showing of the programme in Glasgow on her return.

One of the people in the programme was Miss Hester Hope Fraser, a 20-year-old nurse at Insch Hospital. Miss Fraser belongs to Mains of Hassiewells, Rothienorman, and was one of Miss Hester Meakin’s first babies when she took up maternity work in Aberdeenshire. She was named after her.

Miss Meakin, who is sixty-four, retired four years ago. She came to Insch in 1939. She comes from a Fifeshire family and was trained in Kirkcaldy.

Series 7 subjects

Max Bygraves | Mario Borrelli | Alastair Pearson | Brian Rix | Derek Dooley | Elizabeth Twistington Higgins | Sandy MacPherson
Ronald Menday | Harry Day | Peter Finch | Charlie Drake | Timothy Cain | Isabella Woodford | David Park | Sefton Delmer
Coco the Clown | Jenny Gleed | Arthur E Davies | Tom Evans | David Pelham James | Kenneth Horne | Marie Rambert | David Butler
Glen Moody | Kenneth Cooke | Tom Breaks | Dora Bryan | Bob Oatway | Acker Bilk | Hester Meakin | Joe Filliston | Ellaline Terriss