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Dear Tanjong Pagar,

5 Kadayanallur Street holds such a special place in my heart. Years ago, I served as a nurse at St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital, an all-female employee institution looking very smart with our nurse’s calico hat! I came from Sarawak where I had attended a convent school. It was my teacher, a missionary, who encouraged me to venture to Singapore and apply to St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital to train as a nurse.

I remember staying in a dormitory with 3 other girls and where it would be lights out by 11pm. In the mornings, we were to report to Matron. At the end of each day, we had to take a bath before going to bed. And mind you, there was no hot water! Also there was no such thing as rest days, just a change in the roster every two weeks – morning, afternoon or the night shift.

I worked there for many years. Day in and out I would carry children sick with tuberculosis of the bones up to the highest level of the building for fresh air and sunshine - this was a good way for them to find some comfort. I did this for three years before a lift was finally installed.

When the war begun in 1942 we had to stop work as the hospital was situated near a gas tank and there were explosions. With my midwifery experience, I helped deliver babies during the war. War is ugly and every day I am thankful for the peace we enjoy in the present moment. This hospital was defined by people who persevered with a relentless spirit; I hope this building…this one of a kind look and architecture, this iconic lift will be preserved for anyone who wanders within to be touched by that spirit of relentlessness and hope still captured within its walls.


Love,

Missy Scarlettspot
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image img Mrs Phyllis Clara Perreau
Nurse at St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital circa. 1930s

Yes, I was continuing with my mending of these torn linens and all in my room, when suddenly I heard a little click at the door. Woe betide whom should I see but the matron there, peering, and she said, ‘Miss Nanang, what are you doing up at this time?” It was about ten o’clock in the morning. “Why aren’t you asleep?” So, I was so stunned, I couldn’t answer her for a moment, but then I had to explain to her. I said, “It’s either sleep or I have to finish this. I have to finish this, otherwise Miss Ling Kim Lan will be very angry because I didn’t finish my mending.” “Who told you that you have to finish all these?” So I had to tell tale on her. I said that the sister said that we have to finish every night and I couldn’t finish it last night because it was so busy. So, she was very, very annoyed she said, “Go to bed now!” And with all her strength, she took these hundred pieces of [linens]. She looked really like a Father Christmas. She carried this thing down. I could hear her. Furiously she walked. (Makes sound of footsteps) “I’d see to it,” she said. So, the outcome of that was from then on, no mending was put for the night nurses. So, I thought a good deed [had] come out of that. Although I was quite frightened to face the tyrant sister but she didn’t say a word to me, I think she actually detest me. She resented me, but I couldn’t help it because not that I want to tell tales on her, but because I was caught in the act. So, anyway, some good came out of it. So, from that time, there was no mending for the night nurses to do.
image img Mrs Phyllis Clara Perreau
Nurse at St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital circa. 1930s

But apart from that of course, my first duties are to tidy the linen room. At that time, St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital used cots, they were all metal cots. And there were no mattresses for those cots. There is a sheet where we have to tie on the four sides with tapes, just a sheet where we have to tie it tightly to make it tidy. So, after the laundry, of course, these sheets and all are very quite difficult to tidy. You have to fold it in such a way that all these tapes don’t show because if one tape is showing, the sister who is very strict will say, “Oh, you didn’t tidy the linen room properly. All those tapes shouldn’t be showing.” And, we have to keep them really one on top of the other, same size of folding and the same height and all that, so that at one glance we can count those bed sheets and all. Same with the others like clothing, like shirts and whatever pants that’s for the children. We have to tidy them very well.
image img Mrs Phyllis Clara Perreau
Nurse at St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital circa. 1930s

I remember Miss Wilkinson who is a matron. She is very strict, but she’s firm and she’s kind. She’s strict but kind, which I admire very much. She wants the things to be done really well. While she’s on duty, everything is duty. There is nothing [else]. You must not go wrong. Anything that has to be done, it has to be done right, like sterilizing things and boiling the syringes, how many minutes; and sterilizing the drums and all that. We have to [use] certain levels of heat. We have to see to it. But when we are off duty, she’s really exceptionally kind because…to me, especially. I have no complaints at all about how they treated me at St. Andrew’s Mission Hospital. They all have been exceptionally kind, I think for the fact that I was the odd one amongst the Chinese. And the medical superintendent, usually when she goes out for drives in the car, she used to send word to say, ‘Get dressed and I will take you around to see parts of Singapore.’