Lake Macquarie History

Nurse Hilda Hawkins and the Speers Point Maternity Hospital

Research by Clive Read, 2000

Nurse Hilda Margaret Hawkins was a well respected midwife in the Boolaroo and Speers Point area, delivering many babies in an almost 30 year career. She was born in Wickham NSW in 1897 to Joseph and Mary Hawkins.

Hilda completed her training initially in Newcastle and later at Crown Street Hospital, Sydney where she topped the nurses exams, receiving a gold mounted fountain pen in commemoration. Available records show her first nursing registration on 11th August 1927 when she was 30 years old.

She commenced a midwifery practice in the Boolaroo district with the first birth recorded in her journal dated 1929. This was during the difficult times of the depression, and a number of deliveries were said to have been made without charge. During the 1930's she started taking in patients for their confinements at her mother's house in Council Street, Speers Point, where two rooms were converted for the purpose. At this time many births occured in the homes of the local midwife with the birth certificate recording the address of the premesis. Because Council Street was originally named First Street, some birth certificates for children deliverd by Hilda may have First Street, Speers Point recorded on them.

About 1939 or 1940 her mother built a new home in Main Road Speers Point, between the present Council Chambers and the intersection with Nord Street. Nurse Hawkins built the maternity hospital 'Alistair' on the allotment next door. It was a wooden building with 'Maternity Hospital' painted on the front, and had 4 to 5 beds. She had the building converted into a dwelling on her retirement where it remained occupied for many years, until the land was resumed by Lake Macquarie City Council and the house subsequently demolished.

Former patients have described Nurse Hawkins as a nice and happy person, kind and considerate, though she was known to be very firm with young first time mothers. She did all the washing, cleaning and cooking herself, and it was only when she became older that she employed assistants. One former patient said the meals there were 'beautiful'. Most of the clients of the hospital were said to be from the Boolaroo and Speers Point areas.

Her brother, who later lived at Booragul, recalled that she worked with Dr Morrison, whose residence (on the corner of Main Road and Nord Street), was only a few doors away from 'Alistair'. She also worked with Dr Mitchell of Teralba, and was highly regarded by both men.

The last birth entered in her journal is dated 1946, and her last entry in the nurses registration records was dated 15th October 1953. Hilda was 56 years old by this time and probably looking forward to retirement. Although she never married, her family said she regarded all of the babies she had delivered and cared for as her own.

Hilda passed away in November 1979 at 82 years of age, leaving a living legacy in the many babies she helped bring into the world.

Sources

Interviews by Clive Read with Hilda's family and early residents of the area.