1982 Nightingale Nurses Reunion

by Caroline Gribben

Meeting again after 30 years

One bleak, overcast and wet Saturday last November, 36 Nightingale nurses descended into a small village hall in Cobham,Surrey.  It was almost 30 years ago to the day that we all had gathered as enthusiastic 18 - 22 year olds in the lobby of Gassiot House with our suitcases and parents in tow. It was the start of our 3 year RGN training during which time lifelong friendships would be formed.

With the date of 10th November 2012 set and venue booked,18 months of planning began. Based on a list of all our names in tutorial groups that I had found in my garage (of all places), I undertook the task of contact tracing everyone. I emailed, googled, tweeted and face booked - managing to trace nearly 44 (out of a potential 56). With the date set so far in advance, even some of those living abroad were able to plan and attend. Apologies were sent by a few and some of us were never actually traced,despite the help of the Nightingale Fellowship. Sadly Nicky Briscoe had died a few years previously,but was remembered by us all on the day and in the photos that were sent.

A Facebook events page was set up where all our photos were uploaded and downloaded. A slideshow was made for the day (with the help of my children) and the music from the eighties era was made into a ‘iParty Tape’ by Tracey Barr, with strict instructions from her daughter not to ‘Shuffle or Sync’!

An event to remember

Colourful bunting, tablecloths and flowers on the tables decorated the hall. Everyone bought either a dish of food or drink - a delicious selection of hot/cold dishes and deserts to envy.Yes .. we had proved to be domestic goddesses after all those student years! Student nurse name badges were worn by those who could find them and if not, a sticky name label - just to jog our memories to names and faces we hadn’t seen for the last three decades.None of us had changed very much - our personalities certainly hadn’t !

The alcohol flowed (two units only) and there was non stop chatting and laughter from midday until 8pm. The hours flew by just like the years. Taking control and ably assisted by Phillipa Barker, a group photo was taken outside - a difficult task getting us all looking at the camera at the same time.

'We'd all come so far'

We were so delighted to be joined for part of the day by Sue Tatham - one of the five tutors for our set. Thankfully she had seen an advert in the journal just before the date. Jack de Gruiter and Eithne O’Connell sent their apologies and were keen to be updated on the event. Sue was able to tell us a little of Jacinta Kow’s work in Africa and the address of her Convent in London where she was now back training as a counsellor to help those affected by human trafficking.

Since that November day in 1982 at Gassiot House, we had all come so far in our nursing professions. Most of us had kept up our registration and were practising in the acute secondary or primary setting,some achieving managerial posts, others in further education (deans of facilities ),or working as volunteers for charities.In particular congratulations to Gerry Cousins who achieved her life long ambition and had just qualified as a junior doctor.Some of us were posted abroad in the USA, Canada, Singapore, France and Moscow with our husbands and families. The distances travelled on the day were truly amazing.

Keeping in touch

After a group ‘clean up’ effort and returning the hall to a sense of normality ,it was certainly sad to have to say all our goodbyes and watch everyone disappear into the dark Surrey night. We are all staying in touch through the social media websites,keeping up to date with each others news and photos of families.The power of the worldwide web is truly amazing and has bought us all back together again.

On a final note, a cheque was sent gift aided to ‘The Nightingale Fellowship Benevolent Fund  for £180 - the profit made through everyones small contribution to the costs of the day.A member of our set has since commented that she has received an educational grant  in the past from the Esmond Bequest Fund towards the cost of a travel health course.So as well as for our own enjoyment, there was a charitable meaning to the day.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of any of our lost members or tutors from our set, please ask them to contact me on


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