Matron Margaret Gray lived a life devoted to nursing

MOST of the history we have of the medical profession in our area is concerned with doctors, a limited amount on the hospitals, but little of the nursing staff.

The early hospitals were private, usually run by a local doctor and a trained nurse.

Most of these were "lying-in" rooms for women either about to have a baby or for a short time afterwards.

Public hospitals started to appear in the larger towns towards the end of the 19th century but these were usually run by the local community and were subscription based and had limited funding.

Some had a couple of beds for the poor but few could boast of good conditions.

One of the major problems was the lack of trained nurses.

Sometimes, however, if a girl showed an interest in medicine, she would be sponsored by the local doctors or some others in the community and sent to the city to train.

Margaret Gray
Margaret Gray

Such a one was Elizabeth Ann McDonald of Lismore. She was sent to the Coast (Prince Henry) Hospital in Sydney and there she met another student, Margaret Anne Gray.

They became friends and when they completed their training they came to Lismore and, with the help of Elizabeth McDonald's friends, established Dongrayald Private Hospital.

This was to become a fine establishment.

When the First World War began, Margaret Gray decided to volunteer as a nurse.

She left Sydney for England in 1914 and on arrival there was accepted immediately.

She was sent to Rouen in France where she became attached to the British Red Cross Hospital.

Although she had been used to a strict regime during her training at Sydney she found that the English nurses considered her an inferior.

For some time she was the only Australian nurse attached to the hospital but when others arrived conditions improved.

When Australian soldiers were admitted she was asked to attend to them. She was quite happy to do this and started an autograph book which recorded many of their names.

By the end of the war she had been working overseas for nearly five years.

She was awarded the Royal Red Cross for her work. On her return to Australia in 1920 she was appointed matron of Graythwaite Convalescent Hospital, North Sydney.

This facility had opened in 1915 as a result of a donation by Sir Thomas Dibbs of his historic estate. It had been given to the Crown on the condition that it be used by the Red Cross as a convalescent hospital and home for returned soldiers.

Margaret Gray never married. Like many dedicated nurses of that era she devoted her life to her profession.

Two of her sisters were also nurses and trained at the Coast Hospital. It is not known whether she ever returned to Lismore.

She had been born in Sydney in 1875, the daughter of Robert and Margaret Gray, and it seems likely that she therefore looked on Sydney as her home.

After some years at Graythwaite Margaret Gray was appointed matron at Cavell House, a rest home for trained nurses. It was this position she held until her death on January 16, 1933.

According to her obituary, many of her army nursing friends attended her funeral, as well as nurses from the Coast Hospital, including Matron McMaster.

She had been matron when Margaret Gray did her training at the Coast Hospital. Many commented on Margaret's kindness and dedication, as well as her strength of character.

No doubt Lismore lost a fine person as well as nurse when she left for war. She was truly one of the "old school".

Topics:  history nursing wwi

Sneaky $1 parking hike takes motorists by surprise

The cost to park at the Lismore Rowing Club car park is now $1 more. Photo : Mireille Merlet-Shaw

It now costs $1 more to park at the rowing club.

Flu cases jump by 259% in Northern NSW

Community members are urged to access the 2017 flu vaccine.

Is there a flu crisis on the Northern Rivers?

Ten things to do in Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore this week

The 1975 perform to a huge crowd at Splendour in the Grass 2014. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star

Spending a week in the Northern Rivers? Check this list out

Local Partners

Channing Tatum’s cheeky $2400 sex toy prank

ALWAYS the prankster, Channing Tatum decided he would go all out after wrapping his latest movie.

Still downloading Game of Thrones? Expect a letter

You mean to tell me HBO want to protect one of the world’s most popular shows?

HBO title holds record as most illegally downloaded show

Sam Newman's Footy Show performance baffles panel

Sam Newman on the Footy Show

“Cat got your tongue tonight has it?”

OJ Simpson loses cool as he begs to go free

Simpson was convicted in 2008 of enlisting some men he barely knew, including two who had guns, to retrieve from two sports collectables sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier.

Tension at the parole hearing didn't stop OJ going free

Lead singer of Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, dies age 41

Coroner spokesman Brian Elias says they are investigating Bennington's death as an apparent suicide but no additional details are available.

Chester Bennington's body was found in LA at 9am local time.

Chester Bennington’s tragic Chris Cornell connection

Bennington sings at Chris Cornell’s funeral on May 26 in Los Angeles. Picture: AP

Bennington reportedly godfather of one of Cornell’s three children

Holy schnit: This steak's the size of a small child

WHAT A STEAK: Sarah Atkins was amazed to see the Pinnacle Pub crumbed steak was bigger than one of her four-month-old twin daughters, Jorja.

It's not every day you get served a steak as big as a baby

Island resort living from just $250 a week

Couran Cove on Stradbroke Island is undergoing a makeover. Photo: Steve Holland

Resort offering permanent rentals at almost half normal rental price

New era for stunning historic Rocky venue

St Aubins Village, West Rockhampton.

St Aubins Village reopens to the public after years of closure.

Cashed-up investors driving Ipswich's luxury housing market

SOLD: Elia Youssef bought a home on Hilton Drive Camira for $830,000.

New wave of interstate investors and young super savers in town

Boom or bust? '5.5 million moving into retirement'

National Seniors said that the inequalities with the retirement sector are "a big problem and it's a growing problem".

"It's a big problem and it's a growing problem."