A Pageant of Nursing

Pageant type

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Place: Gaumont Theatre (Dundee) (Dundee, Dundee City, Scotland)

Year: 1953

Indoors/outdoors: Indoors

Number of performances: 2


17 May 1953

The pageant was organised by the Dundee branch of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) as a fundraising initiative for nurse education.

The Gaumont Theatre began life in 1908 as the King's Theatre; it had a succession of owners and in the late 1920s, the interior was modified to allow it to function as a cinema. However, occasional stage productions still took place up until 1961.

The performance took place on Sunday 17 May at 2.30 pm and was repeated at 7.30 pm Dundee Courier, 11 May 1953, 8). It was organised by the Dundee branch of the Royal College of Nursing and was described as 'the first Pageant of Nursing that Scotland has ever seen' (Account of Pageant of Nursing, Dundee University Archives, shelfmark: THB 26/7/1).

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Producer [Pageant Master]: Cruden, James, G.
  • Costumes: Sister Norah Young and Sister Hardie


The idea to hold a pageant is said to have been suggested by Sister Norah Young who worked at Dundee Royal Infirmary. James G. Cruden is described in the local press as 'well known in Dundee theatre circles' (Dundee Courier , 18 May 1953, 3).

Names of executive committee or equivalent

  • President: Mrs Allan
  • Secretary: Mrs G. R. Tudhope


Details of the Dundee-based RCN education fund committee were published in the local press (Dundee Courier, 14 November 1952, 2). It is probable that the pageant had its own organizing sub-committee, but details have not been recovered. It is assumed that organizers mostly came from the ranks of the local branch of the Royal College of Nursing.

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Easson, Janet, L.

Names of composers


Numbers of performers


The figure provided for numbers of performers is an estimate only as no firm data has been recovered.

Financial information

Profit: £483

Details of expenditure are unknown. The pageant made a surplus of £483. This sum made a substantial contribution to the education fund; other fundraising efforts were made during the year and it was reported in October 1953 that the target of £800 for the Dundee branch of the RCN had been exceeded and that £2130 had been raised in total. The pageant probably made the largest single contribution to this (Dundee Courier, 23 October 1953, 7).

Object of any funds raised

Royal College of Nursing (Dundee Branch) Education Fund.

Linked occasion


Audience information

  • Grandstand: No
  • Grandstand capacity: n/a
  • Total audience: Approx. 2000


Over the years, many changes were made to the interior of the Gaumont Theatre in Dundee, but in 1953, its seating capacity was probably around 1000. A press report states that the theatre was almost full at both performances (Dundee Courier, 18 May 1953, 3).

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest

6s–1s. 6d.

The most expensive seats were in the circle and orchestra stalls and cost 6s. Other seats cost 4s (back stalls) and 2s. 6d. and 1s. 6d. (seats in the gallery): Dundee Courier, 11 May 1953, 8.

Associated events

A number of other fundraising events were held in Dundee including a concert in the Caird Hall in Dundee on 1 November 1953 (Dundee Courier, 23 October 1953, 7).

Pageant outline

Act 1: Prologue

This is spoken by the Spirit of Nursing; she briefly describes that the pageant will look at nursing through the ages beginning with ancient times 'when in the temples of the pagan gods sacrifice was offered for the sick... but little was known then of medical skill or science'. The Spirit then states that with 'Christianity the spirit of nursing awoke in noble women' and says that 'their's [sic] was a work of sympathy and service'. Description of the use of hospitals when 'Christian fought with infidel' is followed by mention of war and the 'glorious example' of Florence Nightingale. The prologue concludes with the Spirit stating that she will take the audience back 'to where the spirit of nursing first took form'. [Unless otherwise stated, all information and quotation in the synopses are taken from A Pageant of Nursing, Dundee University Archives, shelfmark: THB 26/7/2]


This was the first of a series of such links between scenes and features 'Nurse Pinky' [played by Nurse S. Gibb] who again implores the audience to step back in time.

Grecian Scene

This scene is purported to be set at Epidaurus, beside a spring of healing waters and the 'temple of Reculapius, Greek God of Medicine'. The 'noble bearded figure' of Aesculapius is seated by the altar; he passes his staff to Hygicia, the goddess of health. Thereafter, Hygicia and her attendants 'perform a ritual and murmur incantations for those who come to seek their help'. The scene included dance.


Nurse Pinky returns with a short comic interlude. She is first seen in an 'imitation of the Greek dancers'; she makes some humorous remarks before introducing the next scene.

Indian Scene

The narrator provides a voiceover to this scene, which is set in an Indian temple: in the background is an image of Siva, the Hindu god. Charaka, the 'great physician', stands before the image while the high priestess of the temple enters. Charaka leads the priestess to the altar steps. Attendants then lead in two blind women. Temple dancers perform. The high priestess takes a cobra skin and lays it on the eyes of the women. When she removes this, she performs the 'final mystic rights'.


Another comic skit performed by Nurse Pinky who states that most nurses would like to have Siva's six arms and that the priestess reminds her of a ward sister with 'everyone running around literally dancing attention on her'. The booming voice of a ward sister is then heard offstage and Pinky rushes off nervously. Two narrators then take over; the first of these remarks that the age of myth and legend is over and 'the work of nursing now begins in earnest' for it is a 'Christian duty'. The narrators describe the work done by several Biblical characters including Phoebe (a friend of St Paul), Paula, and Fabiola. These three are represented in 'stills' [probably meaning tableaux vivants].

Queen Margaret of Scotland

The two narrators continue; they briefly relate that Margaret came to Scotland to be the wife of Malcolm Canmore, they then tell of how she became well known for her good works for the sick and poor, and how she later became a saint. 


Nurse Pinky states that she would like to see another 'lady who worked like those we have seen' and introduces St Brigid.

St Brigid Mime

In this, the Spirit tells a story about St Brigid while actors perform the tale. Mother O'Neil is seen caring for her sick daughter, described as 'an invalid', within their 'humble cottage'. The mother feeds soup to her daughter. The door opens bringing with it 'a shaft of sunlight' and the arrival of a neighbour who enquires after the child. The mother is despondent about the health of her daughter when suddenly the door opens again and another neighbour states excitedly that she has seen St Brigid and recognised her by the bright light that surrounded the saint. She says that Brigid can cure the child. Brigid arrives at the door accompanied by nuns; Mother O'Neil kneels before her. Brigid gives a blessing to the child and the scene ends with the nuns helping the little girl to sit up.


Nurse Pinky re-enters and introduces the character of Elizabeth of Hungary, stating that she lived 'long ago... in times when ignorance made people afraid of disease'.

St Elizabeth Mime

Elizabeth introduces herself; she is preparing to take food to the poor. Her cousins then come on the scene and proceed to pour scorn on Elizabeth's efforts to do good work. They express horror that she visits lepers. They go off and tell their father that she is giving away provisions from his house. Elizabeth's uncle then appears and demands to see her basket of food, which the saint has hidden under her cloak. She is afraid that she will be prevented from now on from doing her work and declares to her uncle that it contains only roses. When he takes off the cloth cover, a miracle has occurred and there are only roses in the basket.


Nurse Pinky re-enters and introduces Nurse Lepie who 'has come from Germany to nurse here'. Nurse Lepie says that she too knows of Elizabeth and that the saint's tomb is in Marburg in Germany. The two discuss other religious women and religious orders who did work for the sick, mentioning St Isobel of Portugal and St Catherine of Sienna. They end by talking of the 'knights' who helped sick crusaders and introduce the Knights of St John.

Knights of St John, part 1

A story of two pilgrims is enacted in this scene set in 1100. They enter the city of Jerusalem: one is 'weak and ill', and the other, who is younger, helps him. The sick man tells the other to leave him for he can go no further, but the young man refuses. The sick man becomes very pale and shivery and cannot be moved even with help. 'Native women' come along but do not stop to help; then two Christian knights of St John appear. They take the sick man to their hospital and a sister of the order assists in tending to the sick pilgrim. The knights then bid the younger man to come and see their work.


Pinky returns and greets a knight; addressing him she says 'Good evening don't you know you should be on [stage]?' The knight replies that he wishes to speak with her first and tell her more of the history of his order. The fact that the order was divided into three branches is described: 'there were priests, the knights and Frere Sergents [sic] or serving brothers'; the work of women is also spoken about. Pinky responds saying that this must have been 'the real beginning of military nursing'. The knight continues by remarking that the order became very powerful and 'had many branches in many countries'. Pinky says she would like to hear more about the history of the order.

Knights of St John, part 2.

Part 2 of this scene enacts one of the sieges of Acre during the Crusades; it opens with 'Lady Edith and her daughters, who have been staying here during the long siege' attempting to help the wounded but the task is beyond them. Lady Edith says 'one feels so helpless here. It isn't like attending to the sick who come to our manor at home'. A knight arrives and sends for help from the Order of St John. When this help comes on the scene, one of the daughters is so impressed by the brisk and efficient tending of the wounded (who are still arriving) that she states, 'I feel I should like to become one of you—no mother—don't try to stop me for I have had it in my heart some time'. The scene ends with a trumpet blast, at which the knight says 'at last we have our signal. Come Sir Knights gather round me and let us follow Richard into Acre'.

Act 2

Introduction to Act 2

The Spirit of Nursing states: 

We cannot linger with all those who sent the work of nursing forward, we must be content to let some pass with brief comment. The years that saw a the great rebirth of learning saw little development in nursing but there were always some who carried on the work

Figures then pass across the stage including two 'Brothers of Mercy', two 'Sisters of Mercy of St Charles', 'St. Vincent de Paul', two 'Sisters of Charity and Mademoiselle de Gras' [founder of the order]. The Spirit describes the role of each. The scene ends with the Spirit remarking that most nursing took place at home and that: 

Despite the efforts of these workers nursing drew nearest its darkest days...Through lack of interest and mismanagement conditions in hospitals became terrible indeed. Nurses themselves were of the lowest caste, rough, ignorant, untrained, unworthy of the name.

Scene: Sarah Gamp

Betsy Prig 'is bustling around preparing to leave... in the background, a patient is in bed'. Betsy is impatiently waiting for someone to relieve her from duty. In walks Sarah Gamp who is 'fat and blowsy with a rough voice'. Betsy berates her for being late. The patient stirs but neither woman pays any attention. Conversation continues about the standard of food provided in this patient's house and a 'large bottle' is pointed out by Betsy who states that the food is a little dull but 'the drinks is good'. The two speak in cod cockney and are evidently disreputable. At last, Betsy leaves and Sarah settles herself down with a drink. A maid enters bringing food; she enquires after the lady in bed who is now awake and asks for warm water so that she can be helped to wash. Sarah, sensing that she might have to do some work, discourages her. The maid remarks that the room 'does not smell too fresh' and offers to open a window but Sarah is horrified at this suggestion: 'such higgnarance to talk of hopening winders in the sick room'. Water is brought and Sarah begins to wash the patient very roughly. At this another 'young lady' is ushered in by the maid. She introduces herself as 'Nurse Worthy' and states that she has been called in to help. Sarah is adamant that she needs no help. Nurse Worthy takes over washing the patient and rescues a bottle of medicine from where it has carelessly landed on the floor. Sarah is furious by now and flounces out saying: ‘That honest Sarah Gump should live to such a day. Me that works 'ard an' only takes the money becos Hi 'as to live! Hi'll not stay no longer to be spied on an' insulted.’ The patient is clearly relieved that she has gone and remarks that Nurse Worthy will be a better nurse. In turn, Worthy states that she has gained experience with the 'Institute of Nursing Sisters', founded by Elizabeth Fry. The scene ends happily.


Nurse Pinky and Nurse Anwan enter. Pinky introduces Anwan saying that she comes from Nigeria. They two have a conversation and the audience learns that Nurse Anwan always wanted to be a nurse. Pinky asks why she came to train in Scotland and she replies: 

There are not many Scottish trained nurses in my country. There are more who have trained in England but my father heard that the Scottish training was very good...a friend of my father's was working in St. Andrews. He did all his practical training in Dundee Royal Infirmary and he thought it was one of the best hospitals where a nurse could be trained. 

Pinky remarks that it 'was only after Florence Nightingale made people realise what nurses could accomplish that they got a proper chance to train at all'. This introduces the next scene.

Scene: The Lady with the Lamp

The narrator introduces Florence Nightingale: ' no one person's influence has been as far-reaching'.

Florence Nightingale Mime, part 1: Early Difficulties

Some nurses sort through laundry and stores. One of them grumbles that she is tired of waiting to be asked to assist when 'men suffer and die in the same building'. Another responds that they must do as they are told for 'Miss Nightingale has her reasons... we are looked on as interlopers. If we push ourselves forward it will only make more trouble'. Nightingale enters; she knows that the staff are dissatisfied but tries to placate them. Two nurses carry a 'pail of steaming arrowroot' in and Nightingale orders it be taken to the wards. Another nurse remarks that at least Nightingale's work in the kitchens is making some improvements, for most patients cannot eat 'the half-raw meat' that had usually been dished up. Nightingale sits down to write her reports, and then a Turkish orderly enters bringing the summons to assist that they have all been waiting for. More wounded are arriving and Nightingale states 'we shall come immediately'.


Nurses Pinky and Anwan retake the stage. They talk more about Nurse Anwan's decision to train as a nurse; she wishes to become a midwife and intends to return to Nigeria after her training and set up a clinic there.

Florence Nightingale Mime, part 2: Receiving the Wounded at Scutari

Nightingale and her nurses are now free to attend the wounded and sick. The scene opens as a nurse helps a wounded man to drink. Nightingale is nearby, talking with a young doctor called McGrigor who advises her that she must not wear herself out with work.

Florence Nightingale Mime, part 3

The Spirit introduces the scene stating that 'some soldiers, invalided home from the Crimea are asked to appear before Queen Victoria at Buckingham palace'; the soldiers are seen at the palace and are clearly overawed by their surroundings. The three soldiers talk in glowing terms about Florence Nightingale stating that they owe their lives to her. One states: ‘I remember when I first saw her. I was lyin' in the corridor in my dirty uniform sick and miserable with pain and the vermin crawlin' in my very beard. Then she came along with her nurses an' the next thing I knew she was attending to me herself.’ The Queen is announced and the men are allowed to sit. She asks questions of them about their experiences. The Queen commends Nightingale's work.

Florence Nightingale Mime, part 4: The Lady With the Lamp

Nightingale arrives carrying her lamp. She stops at the bed of a new patient and he is startled. Nightingale explains where he is and he leans back in relief. At the next bed, she attends to another soldier, displaying good humour. She moves on but the next patient is asleep. In the next, the patient is afraid for he is destined to be taken to the operating theatre but she manages to calm him. This carries on with Nightingale delivering a letter to another young patient. At the final bed, the patient is dying and she sits with him. The narration ends with the following comment on Nightingale: 

At home her fame has spread. Her name is a household word and poems and songs are written in her honour. This does not interest her, but one thing does, that nursing starts to take its proper place, to interest women of the proper calibre who realise that they must learn [sic] to nurse. 

The narrator speaks of the progress made after this and mentions the foundation of the Red Cross. The scene ends with the narrator saying: 'The First World War gave history one more heroine in Nurse Cavell... When war broke out she could have left her post in Brussels and returned to England, but she chose to stay. A choice that gave life to many but deprived her of her own.'

Nurse Edith Cavell Scene.

The narrator introduces the scene which is a tableau featuring Nurse Cavell and soldiers; then proceeds to speak about the work of Cavell as a nurse and of her heroism.

Act 3

Introduction to Act 3

‘This is a scientific age and nursing has become a thing of sterilisers, gauze masks and rubber gloves, but the hands inside the gloves, the eyes above the masks, are human hands and eyes. No robot can perform their work, there must be understanding with it all, the understanding of an educated mind’

The Lamp and the Ladies

A male narrator takes the symbolic position of an operating theatre 'lamp' that overlooks various activities; commentary then follows on the workings of an operating theatre and its staff. It ends with the lamp stating: ‘I am the lamp of life in this hall of drama. Let this be a pageant of electric lamps, for without me there is but darkness. I shine on great and wonderful things. I shine on great and wonderful people.’ At the end of the narration, 'Black out' dramatically descends. The narrator was Norman Welsh, an actor with Dundee Repertory Theatre (Dundee Courier, 18 May 1953, 3).


Pinky is now seen in 'a faint' in the operating theatre. 'Don't laugh so smugly' she tells the audience.  A narrator comments that: 

She will be back, this petrified Pinky. She will age and still fear mice and scream in terror at a rat—for these are the privileges of women all. But because she is a nurse—she will discipline herself to the drugging drama of the theatre of knives.

A theatre sister then appears and the narrator comments on her calmness but says this is unremarkable for 'theatre sisters the world over accept their responsibilities with confidence and earn our admiration and our gratitude'.

Bathing Baby

A later account of the pageant gives the following information:

Girls from Seymour Lodge Pre-Nursing School entertained with a lighter touch when they demonstrated 'Bathing Baby', followed by a 'Keep Fit' display (Account of the Pageant of Nursing, Dundee University Archives, THB 26/7/1).

Nurses off Duty

The curtain rises on the nurses' common room. Nurse Anderson is writing a letter at a desk; Nurse Cameron is sewing; Nurse Ewing is reading a newspaper; Nurse Falconer is reclining at ease in an armchair smoking; Nurse Drysdale is sleeping. There is a 'radiogram playing and Nurse Bell, dressed in outdoor clothes, is dancing to music and humming a tune'. The group chat light-heartedly. They talk of romance and Anderson says that she thinks 'it's an awful waste... getting married after all the hard work and training'. More nurses appear and the talk, often comic, continues. At the end, a group of nurses return from country-dance classes and a demonstration of this type of dancing takes place.


The narrator states: ‘our cycle is complete. But there are footsteps in the distance, the untiring footsteps of those who walk by day and night in every land to serve the sick. They are coming now, the few, who represent the many’. Representatives of the following organisations then pass across the stage:

Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Service
Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service
Health Visitors
Queen's Nurses
Salvation Army Nurses
The Industrial Nurse
The Part-time Nurse
Two nurses from the 19th century
The V.A.D.s
Seymour Lodge Nurses [pre-nursing school trainees]
The parade concludes with singing of 'O Lord Our Help in Ages Past'.

Key historical figures mentioned

Margaret [St Margaret] (d. 1093) queen of Scots, consort of Malcolm III
Brigit [St Brigit, Brigid] (439/452–524/526) patron saint of Kildare
Nightingale, Florence (1820–1910) reformer of Army Medical Services and of nursing organization
Cavell, Edith Louisa (1865–1915) nurse and war heroine

Musical production

Few details of music have been recovered but since the pageant featured dance, it is almost certain that there was musical accompaniment. It is likely that the music played was pre-recorded.
Scottish country-dance music featured in Act 3.
The hymn 'O God Our Help in Ages Past' was sung at the close of the pageant.

Newspaper coverage of pageant

Dundee Courier

Book of words


A book of words was not produced; however, a copy of the original typescript is held at Dundee University Archives.

Other primary published materials


It is probable that a programme was produced but a surviving copy has not been recovered.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant

  • Dundee University Archives holds a copy of the original typescript together with a document entitled 'An Account of the Pageant of Nursing', refs: THB26/7/1 - 4.

Sources used in preparation of pageant

  • Dickens, Charles. Martin Chuzzlewit. 1843-4.

In Act 2, the characters of Sarah Gamp and Betsy Prig are based on those depicted in Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit; part of the drama incorporates dialogue from the novel. By the late nineteenth century, Mrs Gamp had become a popular caricature of the untrained nurse.


In May 1950, Countess Mountbatten announced the launch of a fund by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to provide advanced training for nurses. The Countess became president of this special fund. The RCN had branches across the UK and fundraising for this cause was organised at both a national and local level. Proceeds of the fund allowed experienced nurses to undertake further training in administration and teaching. It was hoped that £500000 would be raised overall.1 By the post-war period, and with the arrival of the National Health Service, the College became focused on the professionalization of nursing and on increasing the profile of nurses as highly skilled and knowledgeable practitioners; an important component of this aim was to ensure that professional training was available to all its members throughout their nursing career. In the absence of state funding for such a scheme, an appeal was made to members and to the wider public. In 1953, in Dundee, which was an important centre for nurse education in Scotland, the local RCN branch decided to hold a historical pageant as a fundraiser for the education appeal.

The Dundee branch of the RCN was not alone in using this means of raising money: colleagues in London also had the same idea, and a pageant called 'They Carry the Torch' was held in October 1953 in the Albert Hall.2 Clearly, the Dundee example came first, however, so seems likely that in this case London was the imitator. The early 1950s were, in addition, bumper years for pageants: with many being held in 1951 for the Festival of Britain and in 1953 in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. Therefore, using pageantry to fundraise may have seemed an obvious choice in the climate of the time. Even so, the Dundee pageant was stated at the time to be the first pageant solely organised and performed by nurses that had ever been held in Scotland.

The pageant set out to cover 'the history of nursing from the earliest times to the present day' over three acts.3 Act I began with a prologue delivered by the 'Spirit of Nursing'.4 This was followed by some scenes depicting ancient times and various attempts by the ancients of Greece and India to perform healing rituals. In between scenes were several intermissions in which a young and naive trainee nurse called 'Pinky' provided comedic commentary. These sections were intended to be light-hearted; in some of them, Pinky was accompanied by 'Nurse Lepie from Germany and Nurse Anwan from Nigeria'.5 The intermissions containing the latter two were also cheerful in tone. Yet these in particular had a distinct propagandist aim that was designed to show how a Scottish hospital was providing valuable education to nurses from countries in which Britain still had a stake in the post-war world—whether as peacekeeper in Germany or as colonial power in Nigeria. Act 1 moved from the ancients to various medieval female saints who were famed for their roles in assisting the sick. These included St Margaret of Scotland, St Brigid, and St Elizabeth of Hungary. Each of the scenes was based on legends associated with the saints. The act then concluded with two scenes that dramatized the foundation and legacy of the order of the Knights of St John.

The second act moved the story forward to the nineteenth century and began with a comic scene based on two of Dickens' most memorable female characters—Sarah Gamp and Betsy Prig. These caricatures of lazy and disreputable nurses set the scene for the supposed revolution in standards ushered in by Florence Nightingale. The work done during the Crimean War by this most famous nursing innovator was then dramatized over four 'mimes'. Although it is clear that speech was involved in some of these, it is likely that a narrator delivered all or most of this while the performers mimed the scenes. Act 2 ends with another narrated piece (accompanied by tableaux) depicting the heroism of Edith Cavell.

Act 3 is something of a mixed bag, and not in any way centred on the past; rather, it aimed to show the important role played by nurses in contemporary times, and to accentuate the value of nurse training in an age of science-based medicine. A clear secondary function of the drama was to show nurses as well-educated and trustworthy individuals, but even so, as ordinary young women with a vocation rather than as saintly and angelic. A scene showing nurses 'off-duty' plainly had a recruitment aim, for the nurses are seen in their common room at the nurses' home enjoying light-hearted banter in a convivial environment. The profession was thus sold as being a desirable career option for modern women.

The gender dimensions of the latter scene are very striking. In the early 1950s in the UK, most branches of nursing were exclusively, or almost exclusively, the province of women. However, the spectre of having to choose between a nursing career and marriage and motherhood was a real issue for individual nurses and for the profession as a whole. The new National Health Service needed more nurses, but these were also years of population growth when women's maternal role was privileged above all else—despite decades of petitioning by feminists in support of equal access to the professions. It is probable that the RCN had a stake in encouraging highly qualified women to return to practice, once their children had grown, as a means of staff retention. In the finale, which sees nurses from various backgrounds parade across the stage, 'part-time nurses' are included. The notion that married women might continue to practice was pioneering in the context of the time.

That said, the RCN was more conservative in some of its other views, and this conservatism certainly extended to the idea that women were inherently more suited than men to the role of providing care to the sick. The exclusively female depiction of the profession in the pageant reflected the fact that the RCN did not allow male nurses to become members of the organization. This situation prompted a letter to the Dundee Courier from one of the small band of male nurses then practising. This man praised all involved for their 'excellent performance', but criticised the fact that not a single male nurse was represented in the pageant.6

 The pageant seems to have been a great success and attracted almost full houses. The RCN had some help with costumes and props, which were loaned by Dundee Repertory Theatre, although a great many were handmade by three nursing sisters who volunteered for the task. Despite the costs that must have been involved in respect of hiring a large city-centre theatre, the pageant still made a substantial profit. The Lord Provost of Dundee attended in the afternoon, but was so impressed by what he saw that he made a return visit in the evening in full mayoral attire.7 Although some of the more solemn aspects of the drama were ameliorated by the comedic interludes, overall this pageant aimed to deliver a serious educational lesson about the importance of a fully professionalised nursing service. With its ability to meld contemporary issues within a narrative of the past, historical pageantry proved an excellent vehicle for obtaining this aim. In this pageant, care of the sick was shown as a practice that had suffered from significant handicaps in the past and as one that had only slowly moved towards modernity. The pageant form allowed nurses to be depicted as a female-led profession that had learned from the mistakes of the past, and now functioned as the lynchpin of the modern, healthcare service now freely enjoyed by all in post war Britain.

1 'Fund for Nurses Studies Opened', Dundee Courier, 26 May 1950, 4.
2 'Flight to Pageant', Yorkshire Post, 6 October 1953, 6.
3 Account of pageant of Nursing, 1: Dundee University Archives, THB26/7/1.
4 Ibid.
5 Account of pageant of Nursing, 2: Dundee University Archives, THB26/7/1.
6 Letter, Dundee Courier, 20 May 1953, 4.
7 'Nurses Present Own Pageant', Dundee Courier, 18 May 1953, 3; male nurses were not admitted to membership of the RCN until 1960.


How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘A Pageant of Nursing’, The Redress of the Past, http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1555/