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U3A Writing: The Life Of Ma Flanagan

...When we were growing up and would see her going to a house we would run home and tell our mother that there was going to be a new baby at the house where she had gone. We were young then and thought she used to bring a new baby in her black bag...

D Nolan recalls the local midwife, Ma Flanagan.

Every body in Frankston, when we went to school, knew Ma Flanagan. She had gone to school with our auntie Eileen and when they both left school in 1945 the war ended. They often joked that the fact that they had left school brought peace to the world.

Our auntie Eileen started work with Mrs. Heaslip, the dressmaker in Frankston West, as it was then known, and she went to work on her bike each day. She learnt how to do all sorts of sewing and in those days lots of people took clothes like dresses and children's' clothes to be altered as they became too small for growing children.

When she was twenty she opened her own shop in Frankston called "Bridal Wear' but she did lots of other sewing and was able to employ two other girls and shortly afterwards she married Ma Flanagan's brother Tom. They have been friends all their lives and still live close to one another in Frankston. They are all over eighty now.

Ma Flanagan - her real name is Shirley - when she left school and went to live in the nurses' home at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, she was too young to train as a nurse at first but the matron was a friend of her mother and she squeezed her in when she turned sixteen.

She spent a long time training - over four years but she won the gold medal in her final year and was then sent off to Ballarat for further training as a midwife. Shortly after she qualified as a midwife she married an American sailor and went to live in California as Mrs. Shultz. She worked in a big hospital there but after only two years she returned to Frankston and changed her name back to Flanagan. No one ever found out what happened to the husband.

Shortly afterwards she put a brass plate on her mother's house with her name her "Letters' and "Registered Midwife''. She rode her bike all over Frankston over the years always with her black bag on the back carrier bringing babies into the world where ever she went.

When we were growing up and would see her going to a house we would run home and tell our mother that there was going to be a new baby at the house where she had gone. We were young then and thought she used to bring a new baby in her black bag. Indeed we were all shocked when Mrs. Strudwick got triplets and then learnt that she didn't get them from Ma Flanagan's black bag. I remember well arguing because my mother had told me Ma Flanagan's job was to bring new babies into the world.

Ma Flanagan is long retired but she is still sprightly and always has time to smile with some of the many children she "brought into the world'.

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