Wednesday, 8 November 2017: Claire McElhinney: “Tell Them of Us”
Claire’s talk, entitled “Tell Them of Us”, was about about her grandmother’s service as a nurse in France during the First World War. In March 1914 Miss Edith Harkness from Plumbridge joined the Nursing Corps of the Ulster Volunteer Force. Formed in 1913 by the time war was declared on 4 August 1914 the UVF Nursing Corps numbered some 5000 persons. When the call went out for nurses to serve the war effort Edith volunteered to go to France and was posted to a French military hospital in Pau where her ability to understand French served her well. In the early days of the war wounded soldiers were transported 600 miles from the Western Front to Pau [near the Spanish Border] but as casualties mounted in 1916 the Ulster Volunteer Hospital moved to Lyons in order to be closer to the action. Following the Battle of the Somme the British army began to evacuate its wounded back to England and put out an urgent call for nurses. With her operational experience Edith was promptly recruited and spent the reminder of the war in a large military hospital in Ripon in Yorkshire. On her return to Plumbridge she married Walter McFarlane and together they reared a family of eight children, one of the girls being Claire’s mother. Claire was thanked by World War II veteran Bob Linwood who included in his remarks appreciation to Amanda Porter for showing the slides with which Claire illustrated her talk.