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Oban’s hero midwife Betty MacIntyre was rubbing shoulders with the stars when she pick up a top NHS award from celebrity Paul O’Grady.
The cast of Call the Midwife including Jenny Agutter, singer Dame Shirley Bassey and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall were just some of the other big names the 70-year-old met at the glitzy NHS Heroes Awards ceremony in London, screened on STV earlier this week.
Oban lifeboat, a CalMac ferry, a hippy horsebox and plenty of layby stops are just some of the more unusual places where Betty, who has just retired, has delivered hundreds of babies in a career spanning almost half a century.
‘The awards night was superb. It was a very memorable occasion. Paul O’Grady was marvellous, he put my stagefright at ease. There were so many celebrities,’ said Ms MacIntyre who invited family round to hers on Monday to watch it on the small screen.
Ms MacIntyre spent 44 of her working years looking after mums and babies in the Oban area, with regular crossings to Mull and emergency call-outs all in a day’s work.
Ms MacIntyre, who was nominated by colleagues for the top award and has also delivered each of her three sisters’ children, took charge of Oban’s first-ever water birth and was responsible for introducing community midwifery to the area, visiting mums and babies in their own homes.
She is a familiar, friendly face, well-known in Oban, after coming close to delivering three generations of families before she stopped work.
‘There’s always someone who gives me a wave or says, “Hello, do you remember me?”,’ she said.
Her nursing career started in Oban before she trained more in Glasgow, the same time as Professor Ian Donald, also in Glasgow, pioneered the use of ultrasound.
‘I’ve had a lovely career, it’s been very happy and fulfilling although there have been sad times too. I remember them all,’ she said.
Some of the most memorable deliveries include aboard a lifeboat from Mull on a midnight mission. The healthy baby was born just as they got back to land from Mull.
Many others have been hasty deliveries in lay-bys on the way to bigger maternity units on the road to Glasgow and there was an occasion when a baby could not wait for a ferry to dock in Oban and was born in the back of an ambulance on a CalMac ferry – she delivered another on Craignuire Pier.
‘Once I had to deliver a baby in a horsebox. It was on a kind of New Age hippy camp near Appin. I had to climb up steps to get to the mum on a bunk bed. It felt as though there were about 300 people who kept coming in and out to watch!’
Before the Oban midwives moved to Lorn and Islands Hospital in the 1990s, they had a base at Glen Euchar, now a hotel. Ms MacIntyre said it had ‘the nicest labour room in the world’ with a stunning big window overlooking the bay.
‘I think my happiest times were at Glen Euchar. It was such a beautiful building and the care was so personalised. It was home from home but there’s been a great team up at the hospital too. We are all like family. I’ll miss them. I’ll keep popping back and we’ll stay in touch because we are all friends but I won’t be going back to work!
‘I’ve never had much time for anything else other than work. If I wasn’t on a shift, I was on call-out so I’ve been too busy for hobbies but I do enjoy my garden and hope to spend more time in it now,’ she said.