Matron bore respect throughout her 46-year career
DESCRIBED as a woman ahead of her time, 94-year-old Bridie Eileen Gregory was laid to rest earlier this week.
Renown, respected and loved for her dedication to mothers and babies, Ms Gregory was thought to have delivered 5000 children. In one 24-hour period she assisted a doctor to deliver 13 babies.
Always looking ahead, she recognised with the Age of Aquarius, many women sought alternatives to the sterile hospital experience and she was instrumental in establishing the first birthing centre in regional New South Wales.
Born in 1923 to Stan and Molly Gregory at the Richmond Hospital, Casino, Ms Gregory grew up on a small farm at Backmeade.
Her father fought in the Battle of Beersheba and was awarded the Military Cross.
One of seven children, she attended Backmede Public School and St Mary's Catholic School in Casino, run by the Sisters of Mercy.
In 1941, Ms Gregory started her nursing training at the Casino Memorial Hospital. After graduating in 1945 she entered the King George V Hospital at Camperdown Ave, where she completed her obstetrics and became a double certificate nurse.
In her 46-year career, Ms Gregory worked around the country, including Mullumbimby Hospital and the Darwin Base in the Northern Territory. While at Mullumbimby she and a doctor attended a women having a baby at Upper Main Arm, battling through a cyclone, heavy rain, flooding and almost being swept away when crossing a swollen creek. In Darwin, Ms Gregory went to Bathurst Island where she became interested in Aboriginal health, then spent a short time at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital before returning to Backmead.
Her sibling Nora, also a double certificate sister, had returned from Tasmania, and phoned Kyogle Hospital for both of them as Ms Gregory was too shy to apply for a job herself. When the hospital manager said one of them had to take charge, Nora nominated her sister.
Both sisters were appointed to the new 20-bed Maternity Unit in Campbells Rd. It was a time of intense work and great happiness for Ms Gregory, who was highly respected and loved by her patients.
She worked at the unit until 1967 and was appointed matron of the main hospital in 1968, the year she gained a Diploma in Nursing Administration from the University of Armidale.
Ms Gregory's family said her "visionary" work in establishing a caring approach at the Gregory Family Birthing Centre, the first family birthing centre in country NSW, meant the alternative residents seeking a natural experience could be cared for.
"If we don't do this, these people will bury their mistakes," Ms Gregory once said.
The year she retired, 1987, Ms Gregory received the Order of Australia for her Services to Nursing.
In 2000, she received the Centenary Medal for her service to the community and, in 2004, a Papal Citation from Pope John Paul II for her services to the Catholic faith in Kyogle.
Her nieces and nephews recalled their aunt and godmother as a loving, caring soul who loved cricket, a beer and family, as well as her Ford Anglia called Annie, which she would take them for drives in.