For 50 years, the dedicated midwives of the Royal Alexandra Hospital‘s Community Maternity Unit have helped bring more than 140,000 babies into the world.
Every day, the staff who work there play a vital role in the most important time of some women’s lives, providing care for generations of families across five decades.
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On Monday, the thriving maternity unit celebrated the milestone anniversary by honouring those who have spent their careers working in the wards of the hospital.
For many who work within both the community-led and the consultant-led maternity units, the Paisley hospital is where they started their training as young women.
For senior midwife Linda Lang, it was where she says she fell in love with her job – despite having no intention of pursuing a career in midwifery.
Next year will be her final year before retirement after 40 years of what Linda hails as the best job in the world.
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“I came to do the training and something just captured me and I have felt utterly privileged to be able to do this as my job ever since,” said Linda.
“I have been amazed throughout my entire career how strong women can be.
“It is such a vulnerable time in their lives and I feel so lucky that I get to be part of that with them and offer them support.
“This is just the best job in the world.
“You get the chance to build up relationships really quickly with women as you are helping them through one of the toughest experiences of their lives.
“We don’t look for people to remember us, we just get to have an amazing connection with people for a few hours at such a special time.”
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Another midwife who joined the ranks as a young trainee was Carol Wraith.
Now the longest serving member of staff with 42 years service, she was just 19 when she took on her role in 1977.
She says the highlight of her career has been to see generations of Paisley families come through the hospital doors.
She said: “It feels like such a family here, and what is amazing is that now we are seeing people who were born here coming back all these years later and having their own babies.
“It is just wonderful to see. We are helping generations of people have their children.”
In the beginning, the maternity hospital had just four wards and 120 beds, with patients staying at the hospital for up to two weeks after the birth of their child.
The maternity hospital was built 20 years before the main building to give Paisley mothers the option of having their children born in the town.
Before that, mothers were taken to Thornhill Maternity Hospital in Johnstone.
Today, it is busier than ever, with 3,800 babies born every year.
While there have been many changes, lead midwife Dorothy Finlay says the one thing that has never changed is the hardworking staff.
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She added: “I have been here for 37 years and we just have the most fantastic staff. It has changed so much over the years. The care has improved. It is such a fantastic thing to be part of.”
Those who were born in the unit’s beginnings were also given special acknowledgement at the celebration.
Renfrew woman Margaret Laffey gave birth to her daughter at the hospital on December 30 that year, and was one of the first women to undergo an ultrasound, which was new technology at the time.
Jennifer Wilson made the trip from Perth to join in the celebrations with her mum Margaret Lee.
She was born on December 19, 1969, and then went on to have her own daughter Alexandra at the hospital in 2007.
Paisley woman Annemarie Smith, who was the first ever Christmas baby born at the unit in 1969, even made the local paper the year she was born.
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The anniversary was a poignant reminder for Annemarie, whose mum Margaret sadly died last year.
Annemarie, 49, said: “This is really emotional for me to come and celebrate this as I just lost my mum last year.
“I was the first Christmas baby to be born here at 7.20am.
“She would always tell me the story of when I was born so it is a really special memory for me.”
Provost Lorraine Cameron has praised the staff for their years of dedication at the maternity unit during the 50th anniversary celebrations.
Lorraine said she was delighted to be invited along to hail the five decades of hard work at the hospital, where she says she gave birth to all four of her own children.
She said: “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Paisley’s maternity unit and to join the staff, past and present, reminiscing over the last 50 years.
“My own four children and grandchildren were born there and I recall the wonderful care and attention I received from the staff.
“It was wonderful to meet a couple of the first babies born at the maternity and to hear everyone’s hopes for the future of our NHS.
“I would like to thank all staff members for their dedication to the maternity service over the last 50 years.”