June McElnea This Is Your Life

programme details...

  • Edition No: 695
  • Subject No: 690
  • Broadcast date: Wed 12 Feb 1986
  • Broadcast time: 7.00-7.30pm
  • Recorded: Fri 31 Jan 1986
  • Venue: Royalty Theatre
  • Series: 26
  • Edition: 17
  • Code name: Child

on the guest list...

  • staff and patients of Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • Dr Gerry Hass
  • Marie - sister
  • Denise - sister
  • Eddie - brother-in-law
  • Corrine - niece
  • Marjorie Pitts
  • Elizabeth Mossman
  • Claire Cross
  • Margaret Aitken
  • Eddie Williams
  • Dorothy Williams
  • Michele Williams
  • Andrea Johnson
  • Brian Johnston
  • Pauline Johnston
  • Joanna Johnston
  • Bernadette Kilgariff
  • tank crew from 15th Mounted Hussars
  • Sue McQueen
  • Val Allen
  • Shirley Hensman
  • Sue Haiti
  • Stephanie Daniels
  • Richard Williams
  • Jonathan Williams
  • David Towse
  • Ann Towse
  • former patients of Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Joan Kilgariff
  • Ian Botham
  • David Gower
  • members of England cricket team

production team...

  • Researchers: Caroline Blackadder, Claire Jenkinson
  • Writer: Roy Bottomley
  • Directors: Terry Yarwood, Michael D Kent
  • Associate Producer: Brian Klein
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

A Medical Life

examining the medical profession

Ian Botham

Brian Johnston

June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life June McElnea This Is Your Life

Screenshots of June McElnea This Is Your Life

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

Few 'unsung' heroines were brought to our notice more frequently than 'Sister Mac' – so many people wrote to tell us about this star of the world-beating nursing team at Great Ormond Street Hospital, internationally famous for its treatment of desperately ill children.

On Friday 31 January 1986, there was a children's party in one of the wards. Eamonn Andrews donned a party head – Disney character Pluto [ editor: it was actually Donald Duck] – to attend, and surprise Sister June McElnea, MBE.

As he said, he was seeking a little lady with a big heart. At eighteen, when she wanted to become a trainee nurse, she stood just 4ft 11in, and the minimum height requirement was precisely five foot.

She went for her interview wearing the highest of high heels and a hat that looked like a chimney. She got the job and went on to become a nursing sister at Great Ormond Street whose very personality turned tears to smiles among the children whose lives were constantly in the balance.

Cricket commentator Brian Johnston and his wife Pauline came to tell us how 'Sister Mac' had kept up their spirits for twelve years of care of their daughter, Joanna. Joanna came, too.

Sister Mac had her own hero, cricketer Ian Botham. We made sure he was able to have a word from the West Indies, where he was on tour. For good measure, David Gower, then the England captain, introduced the whole of the team to wave their greetings to a remarkable woman whose true height might have meant she did not measure up to the job.

Grateful children, and their parents, testified how she had seen them through unimaginable crisis. One mother, Ann Towse, had sent Sister Mac a Christmas card that year, recalling the period when her young son, then aged four, was in Great Ormond Street, and the doctor had said, 'We can do no more for David.'

The card said, 'You were close by and ready to help. David will be twenty-one next birthday. How wonderful to have known a real saint.'

Brian Johnston biography

Barry Johnston, Brian Johnston's son, recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, Johnners The Life of Brian...

In January 1986 Brian paid a return visit to This Is Your Life when he appeared as a guest with Pauline and their youngest daughter Joanna. The subject of the programme was Sister June McElnea, MBE, known as Sister Mac, who was retiring after nearly forty years at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Pauline explained to Eamonn Andrews that they had first met Sister Mac at a very traumatic moment when they discovered that Joanna had diabetes. She had taught Joanna how to practise her injections on an orange. 'There were many occasions when Joanna had to go into Great Ormond Street,' Pauline informed Sister Mac, 'and the fact that you were there with your cheerful smile kept our spirits up.'

Brian could not resist telling a joke. 'A mother came to visit her child once,' he told Eamonn, 'and she had rather a bad cough. Sister Mac said, "Let me look at your throat." So she looked down her throat and said, "Yes, you've got a bad cough. Do you ever get a tickle in the morning?" And the mother said, "I used to, but not now they've changed the milkman!"' The audience laughed, although Eamonn looked rather taken aback.

Joanna was wearing an attractive green dress that she had made herself at training college. After she had told Sister Mac about the dress, she suddenly gave her a big twirl. The audience responded with loud applause and as Brian, Pauline and Joanna walked to their seats, Joanna raised her arms in triumph. 'Well,' said Eamonn, as the applause died down, 'that went down better than Dad's joke!'

Series 26 subjects

William Roache | Dennis Taylor | Elisabeth Welch | Sheila Mercier | Richard Branson | Maurice Denham | David Ellaway
Terry O'Neill | Gerry Marsden | Joyce Carey | Chas n Dave | Oliver Reed | Felix Bowness | John Harris | Bonnie Langford
Henry Cotton | June McElnea | Derek Jameson | Richard Vernon | Martyn Lewis | Peter Shilton | Ted Rogers
Simon Williams | Larry Slater | Lena Kennedy | Denis Quilley