Read Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle by Mary J. Macleod Macdonald of Macdonald, Claire Online


Tired of the pace and noise of life near London and longing for a better place to raise their young children, Mary J. MacLeod and her husband encountered their dream while vacationing on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides. Enthralled by its windswept beauty, they soon were the proud owners of a near-derelict croft house--a farmer's stone cottage--on "a small acre" ofTired of the pace and noise of life near London and longing for a better place to raise their young children, Mary J. MacLeod and her husband encountered their dream while vacationing on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides. Enthralled by its windswept beauty, they soon were the proud owners of a near-derelict croft house--a farmer's stone cottage--on "a small acre" of land. Mary assumed duties as the island's district nurse. Call the Nurse is her account of the enchanted years she and her family spent there, coming to know its folk as both patients and friends.In anecdotes that are by turns funny, sad, moving, and tragic, she recalls them all, the crofters and their laird, the boatmen and tradesmen, young lovers and forbidding churchmen. Against the old-fashioned island culture and the grandeur of mountain and sea unfold indelible stories: a young woman carried through snow for airlift to the hospital; a rescue by boat; the marriage of a gentle giant and the island beauty; a ghostly encounter; the shocking discovery of a woman in chains; the flames of a heather fire at night; an unexploded bomb from World War II; and the joyful, tipsy celebration of a ceilidh. Gaelic fortitude meets a nurse's compassion in these wonderful true stories from rural Scotland....

Title : Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781611459173
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle Reviews

  • Lois
    2019-05-28 15:48

    The Hebrides, which are two groups of islands lying just off the west coast of mainland Scotland, provide the setting for this charming collection of anecdotal experiences of a country nurse during the 1970s. Throughout the book, MacLeod is so intent on preserving the privacy of the islanders that she refers to the “wild, exposed” island which she and her family made their home by the name “Papavray,” so don’t try looking it up on any map—you definitely won’t find it. Despite her use of such a pseudonym, however, her experiences are made not one whit less real to us, her readers, who readily come to feel part of her innermost circle of friends, so welcome and beguiling is her approach.The delicacy and vibrancy of MacLeod’s text resonates with the warmth and passion of the Hebridean islanders among whom she worked. Anyone who has ever lived close to the sea, and who has savored its salt tang on their lips, cannot help but become enthralled by the sensuous wonders of the landscape that she describes in such vivid and glowing terms. Almost at once, one feels close to her, and becomes intimately concerned with her own concerns, as she cycles her way around the island from one patient to another. Her description of the surrounding environs is close to mythical in the poetic cadence of her speech, fringing in its mysteriousness on much loved passages of Daphne du Maurier: “The sky had cleared and the winding road was bright in the moonlight, while the dark waters of small lochs sparkled among the reeds.” The appeal of the islands and island life permeates the text, from where MacLeod explains how she, her husband and sundry children decided to abandon the hectic pace in the south of England, together with all its stresses and daily pressures, to become “middle-aged dropouts,” living on Papavray, to where they become so enmeshed with island life that they themselves start to seem an integral part of the rural landscape. Despite having to, at first, conduct negotiations for land ”through a fog of half-understood cultural differences,” they soon warm to the generous hospitality of the island folk, with the latter finding MacLeod’s husband’s electrical skills and her own nursing ones ever more indispensable. Somewhat akin to James Herriot’s experiences in the Yorkshire Dales, the author recounts her experiences with the locals in tones of mixed a/bemusement and respect for their endurance and adaptability to the relatively harsh environment in which they live.The series of adventures upon which the MacLeod family embarks are recounted lovingly and with consummate ease, much of it being in direct speech, so that one feels as though one were there, experiencing the scenes unfolding before one. The pace of Call the Nurse flows smoothly and eloquently through the pages, with the reader becoming ever more engrossed with the ebb and flow of island life. No matter how jaundiced a view of people you might usually, you will not fail to be drawn into admiring the close-knit functioning of human interrelationships in the relative backwater of Papavray and to come to view others around you in a kinder light, aware, but at least a smidgeon more tolerant, of their foibles and failings—such a humanizing effect does this book have on one. Thoroughly recommended for both old and young, next time you have a break and wish to escape the rat race for just a short while, do try reading Call the Nurse—you won’t be disappointed.

  • Adrienne
    2019-05-30 12:07

    A disappointing read for me. Given the title, I was hoping for a memoir of a visiting nurse primarily focused on the profession. The author has instead written a memoir of the years of her family's life on a small Scottish island, over full of adjective-laden weather descriptions with an occasional nursing story. There was much left to be desired in the ordering of the vignettes, the lack of transition between them, and the absence of a theme to the tales to draw the reader in and keep the story centered. This book really has no backbone to bind it and thus feels like a personal journal or a memoir written for consumption by close associates only that someone put a "For Sale" sticker on. Not really recommended.

  •  Lisa A
    2019-06-01 16:58

    Although categorized as a memoir, this is a truly a book filled with short stories about Mary Macleod's (and her family's) experiences on a remote Scottish island. Although some of the focus is on the author's nursing related house calls, many of the recollections describe the islander's way of life and the challenges faced by living in a remote area. There are some bleak and frightening stories, some being medical in nature, but overall this is a "feel-good" type of book. Others reviewers mentioned this reminded them of All Creatures Great and Small but without the animals. I agree, although animals do play a role in this book too. There are chapters devoted to shearing the sheep and the rescue of Boris the bull, each illustrating not only the challenges of rural living, but also a spirit of community and cooperation. Favorite Passages:-Of course we grumbled in the winter (it was too dark and wet) and in the spring (it came too late and was too cold) and in the summer (when there were too many midges) and then again in the autumn (when the gales began once more). But grumbling is a national pastime, and behind this pretended disaffection with our lot was a deep abiding love for the island, its life, its people, and the all-embracing sea.-Janet and Morag glowered at each other, but I had to leave at that point in the discussion and I just assumed that the matter would be dealt with in the usual way of the Gaels: with heated disagreement but laughing compromise in the end.-She was intensely interested in island people and convinced that they were superior in every way to all others, and that Papavray was the only place to live. This opinion was not well based, as the farthest afield that she had ever been was to the busy harbour and fishing port on the mainland. However, Mary’s parochial life was never short of interest, as the family affairs and so-called private lives of her neighbours afforded infinite grist to the mill of her incessant chatter.

  • Carol
    2019-06-09 19:50

    Combine James Herriot, John McPhee, Seamus Heaney's poem Digging with a dash of Call the Midwife. Mary J. Macleod moved her family from southern England to become a district nurse on an island twenty miles long in the Inner Hebrides. She, along with a 70-year-old doctor, provided medical care for all the inhabitants in the 1970's. She writes with a clear-eyed, unsentimental, but affectionate voice. The squat house seemed to hunch its shoulders as gust after pugnacious gust raced in from the sea, whirled along the stone pier and thundered against the two-foot-thick-walls.The book is a series of vignettes: like a gurgling stream it ambles along, making it an satisfying read in pockets of time. Macleod worked (tending elderly, administering daily injections, attending to medical emergencies) with her patients in their homes. She was called at all hours and had to traverse a mountain or be taken by sea in a boat. She cared for people from newborns to octogenarians, many who spoke only Gaelic. This book taps into three fascinations: island culture, self-sustaining lifestyle, and Scotland. I have been on two islands in Scotland, which is knowledge enough to be dangerously ignorant. To protect the privacy of the inhabitants, Macleod calls her island Papavray. This fired my curiosity, sending me to Google to unsuccessfully tease out the island's true name. The best thing? The author wrote her first book (of three now published) in her 80's. It fuels my hope. Check out her Facebook page.

  • Barbara
    2019-05-30 12:15

    Surprisingly good! This was not just happy stories of quaint islanders but a portrayal of the challenges of island life. There are sad stories, and horrible stories, but also insight into what life was like in 1970 in the western Hebrides. The author changes the name of the island to protect the privacy of those who live there. As this book was only recently published, it is likely that many of the people she describes have passed away and the way of life has all but disappeared. I had some experience of the Calvinism of some of the western isles when I visited Lewis about 10 years after this book was set. I had to have the landlady prepare my Sunday meals on Saturday, including a cold supper. Nothing was open and she even requested that I not wash out any of my clothing such as socks on Sunday. It is likely these customs too have passed.This was an audiobook and the British narrator had the most horrid Scottish accent - she rolled her r's impressively but the rest sounded like a horrid Irish accent. She said quay as Koo-Way and names like Catriona as Cat-ree-oh-na and Ruari as Roo-Are-Wee.

  • BobbyTitle
    2019-06-11 12:08

    I had never heard of this book, never read a review, had no expectations to meet -- I picked it out because I was learning to use my e-reader and figured it would be no great loss if I lost a page or two of the story or which page I was on while I was struggling to see if I was going to like reading a book I couldn't hold.Was I surprised! It was my lucky day when I chose this book to read. I needn't have worried about my switch to e-book; everything went along well and I was so engrossed in the book that I just couldn't put it down.What I especially liked about it is that rather than a plot to follow, each chapter was its own stand-alone tale... a picture of a place, a people and a happening. The author's writing style made everything real; her descriptions never got tiresome. I came out of the book feeling I really knew what she, her family, the townsfolk, the customs and the situations were like. As far as I am concerned, this book deserved every one of those stars.

  • Mary Etta
    2019-06-15 18:49

    From the beginning a perfect fit. Our family also moved to Scotland in 1970, but from the USA. We lived midway between my mother's and father's hometowns. Our son was born in his grandfather's hometown. In times past it was a mining village. In 1970 it boasted a regional maternity hospital. Our older son came home from school each day with new ways to speak English. The children's' voices quickly blended in to what they heard around them close, but not quite "of the Gaelic". Mary J. McLeod relates an engaging story of her family's settling into the Gaelic ways and her nursing experiences. I'm looking forward to the rest of her tales on Papavray. McLeod shares her stories of life and nursing in the Hebrides well. The chapters reflect the island life they experienced. It is a unique intimate look at the Hebridean life of the times because of her work as the only nurse. Though small in population the breadth of life experiences is broad. I really enjoyed this look at Scottish life at that time and place.

  • Julie
    2019-05-21 14:16

    This is a quick read about a home health nurse in the Hebrides Islands during the late 60's and early 70's. I wanted to like this book, but I found it dull. The novel did provide an informative look into the Hebrides Islands during the time period, which I did find interesting. However the time frame was vague, I was not sure how long the nurse and her family lived on the island or which years the events were taking place. We do not learn what happened to some of the main side characters...did the narrator never contact the islanders after she left, what about her sons? Also the narrator does not explain why she left the island. Also, I felt the narrator views were very opinionated for a person who had not lived on the island long. She seemed to be an expert on everything, where was the learning curve? Poorly written.

  • Mary
    2019-05-24 11:55

    These would have been wonderful, fascinating stories if only I knew these people, but I didn't, and I couldn't visualize them. (Lots of telling, very little showing.) It's too bad the author had to protect identities and conceal the location because this book would have benefitted from photography and a map or two.

  • Suzanne
    2019-06-10 12:07

    In this charming memoir, Mary J. MacLeod shares stories of her experiences living on a remote Scottish island as a district nurse in the 1970's.Coming from London, MacLeod's family certainly had adjustments to make, and the inconvenience of living far away from even shopping makes for interesting stories. One such story relates how every trip to get supplies meant bringing back the items on their neighbor's shopping list as well. Sometimes they even included large appliances!But the biggest impact on the remoteness of the terrain surrounded Nurse Mary J.'s job itself. The hospital was on the other side of the island, and even that was not equipped to handle everything. When bad weather set in, oftentimes Nurse Mary J. was the only medical help available - and even she relied on her neighbors to get her there when the roads were difficult.There was also quite of bit of community gossip shared - which I found strange in a memoir. It made me feel like I was made privy to some information I'd rather not know about.Still, the author manages to evoke the beauty of the island, the warmth of the islanders and the attraction of life away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

  • Jean Poulos
    2019-06-01 15:03

    I have always been interested in the Outer Hebrides Islands so when I saw this book I grabbed it. “Call The Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle” by Mary J. MacLeod tells a tale of an English family going to live on a remote Hebrides Island. MacLeod gave the island a fictional name to protect the privacy of the Island and its people. She called the island Papavray.The author states her husband’s grandfather was born and raised on the island but left as a young man to find work. They decided to return to the island to live in 1969 after her two older children had left home and only the two teenage boys were left to care for. She worked as a nurse and her husband found contract work as an electrician and electronics technician.The author’s description of the island, their way of life and medical problems is a reminder of a vanishing way of life. She describes the land and seascape in vivid and glowing terms. The description of the wild rugged island is super. The island being far north, her description of the Northern lights was magnificent. I loved her tales of island lore. Gaelic is the native language but the people also spoken English; therefore she used a lot of old Scottish words as they were used on the island. Thank goodness Kindle has a dictionary build it; I used it frequently while reading the book.The book is well written. Macleod has kept the chapters short and fast moving. She has done an excellent job capturing the nuances of island life. On the Nursing side she traced many stories across the seasons of a year, from births to deaths, survival and tragedy. The author also provides us with some humor in the story. I am left with a feeling of wanting to go visit the Inner and Outer Hebrides for a different type of vacation. It is a wonderful memoir to read. I used whispersync ( for one section only) with this e-book on the Kindle app for my iPad.

  • Melanie Mole
    2019-05-26 14:50

    This amazing woman tells her story in this brilliant read. You see the highs and lows of remote island life, and how Mary dealt with these as an island nurse. The Scottish weather is formidable, but so is Mary. She describes the struggles of island life so well that you almost believe that you are right there beside her. Her trips to the mainland in an emergency, or just to shop for provisions, are an adventure in themselves. I am determined to read more of Mary's books now as this one was really special. Thank you for letting us into your life with your books Mary.

  • Liralen
    2019-05-18 20:05

    This is to memoir what cozies are to the mystery/crime genre. It's about the author's exploits as a nurse on a remote Scottish island in the 1970s. The island (and surrounding island) seems to have had its fair share of drama, despite the small population -- plane crash! Woman imprisoned for years! Incest! Ghosts! Cutting out a window to get a patient out! -- but it's all told in a chatty, low-tension style. It feels a bit as though the author's just popped round for tea and is regaling you with tales of her youth. (Luckily, she's the relative/neighbour you actually like.)It's as much about general island life as it is about her work as a nurse, and while I rather wished for more details something (for example, the house they bought sounded like a dump -- I would've loved to hear more about what went into making it habitable. But then, I like books about houses...), it' to put's a comfortable read, with the feeling that no matter what life throws at the people in the book, they'll carry on.

  • Allison
    2019-05-29 19:00

    A Breath of Fresh Island AirI turned to this book as a respite from the election and was very glad I did. This true story takes place before the world was connected digitally. In fact in this little island community (with a fictitious name to protect the privacy of the inhabitants) there isn't even electricity and little to join them to the outside world. The village gossip system is alive and well, however, and the community cares deeply about each of its members. The tales come from the memories of a visiting nurse who has moved with her family from London in search of a simpler life. The forces of Nature create a harsh world, but the love and loyalty of the people provide a sharp and wonderful contrast. Reading about the icy winds, rough seas and constant rains while curled up in my cozy living room only enhanced my enjoyment of this remarkable book. The author, now 80, has written another book about these salt-of-the-earth folk which I think I will turn to when I need a further antidote to modern society.

  • Jen
    2019-06-02 15:06

    A nurse and her husband decide to leave the hustle and bustle of London to move to an island in the Hebrides off the western coast of Scotland. This is essentially a collection of her memoirs from that time. As a nurse in 2016, I was intrigued what being a district nurse in the 1970's in remote Scotland must have been like. It certainly makes me appreciate my modern amenities!Some of the scenarios the author encounters are very surprising. I feel that she gets carried away with some of her descriptions, and was disappointed with the abrupt ending. She states she wants to go back, but doesn't state why she left. It would have also wrapped up a little more thoroughly with stating what her family members were doing at the time of her writing the book, since they figure in most of her stories.

  • Sue
    2019-06-03 17:14

    Every so often, a 5-star book comes along, and I know it as soon as I start reading. I bought this book because of my love of the Hebridean Islands of Scotland. I guessed that it would be whimsical (it was) but it also delighted me with its excellent writing style! The author is in her 8o's, and writes of her years as a nurse 50 years back. The stories don't seem dated at all. She can move us to tears, and I laughed out loud in many spots. The personalities of the villagers come alive on her pages. MacLeod's second book is available for pre-order - can't wait!

  • Hal
    2019-06-09 15:46

    Despite the title this is not chick lit by any stretch. It is stories told by a nurse who moved with her husband and children from London to a remote Hebrides island. She became the district nurse and her husband found there was no lack of nee for his electrical skills.Her stories run the gamut from hilarious to very tragic. They are all held together by the same characters throughout the relating of her experiences. It was easy to picture all these rugged, and sometimes strange, individuals who lived their lives on this isolated island in the weather-tossed treacherous North Atlantic.

  • Erin Mahollitz
    2019-06-02 15:13

    A simple memoir of a woman who worked as a nurse in a small community in the Scottish Hebrides. The writing is meh, but the tales are precious. It's all about the individuals you meet in this tight-knit community of crofters. Reading Call the Nurse was a lesson in the culture of a remote region of Scotland. I hope one day to visit this blustery and charming locale.

  • Laura
    2019-06-08 16:11

    Very pleasant book to read. She wrote more about the people she served rather than her nursing profession, and painted a lovely picture of her time living in the Hebrides. Thank you, Carol, for reviewing it! I wouldn't have known about it otherwise.

  • Kim
    2019-05-25 18:13

    I guess I was hoping for something in the line of James Herriot's amusing and engaging stories. These were rather dull for the most part.

  • Kiena
    2019-06-10 16:59

    Loved the book. It let me imagine living in a place I've only been fortunate enough to visit once. Also, reminded me of my beloved James Herriott books.

  • B. Jean
    2019-05-16 17:59

    As I've read a lot of hospice books, I thought this would be similar, that there would be detailed medical explanations and following of patient's lives. I don't really know why I thought that, other than that's what I've read before. Instead, this was a little love letter to the Scottish isle where she lived. The epilogue left me sad and longing, as someday I will leave my little Hokkaido town and look back the same way she did. Neither of us may ever see the place again, but we carry those memories and will always long for another time in our lives. The way she structured the book took a bit to get used to. Instead of following a strict timeline of chronological dates, the stories seemed to weave in and out. I didn't find myself minding this, as the mysteries in the earlier stories eventually revealed themselves later through tidbits of conversation. You know, the way real life works. It was very organic. I find myself wanting to visit the Hebrides when my friend and I travel next year.

  • MaryJo Dawson
    2019-05-21 19:07

    Yes, I'm a retired nurse myself, so it's possible I'm a little prejudiced toward Mary Macleod and her memories. But this was such an enjoyable read for me, and I'm so glad the lady is going to treat us with another.Except for driving me a little mad with all of her exclamation points, it was a joy to read her memories of being a district nurse in a remote place over 45 years ago - another life, another culture. It was truly a remarkable look into a lifestyle that no longer exists - which is good in some ways and regretful in others. She was dedicated to her work and her patients, loved the land, and seems to have found the perfect partner in this adventure with her husband George. You are there with the tragedies and heartbreak, the laughter and joy. It is also a rare insight into the meshing of modern and traditional in a place and people that have had to adapt for generations.

  • Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
    2019-06-04 14:04

    An interesting look at life as an island nurse in the Scots Hebrides of the 1970s. Episodic, which means that you can pick up any chapter and read it, though there is a common thread here and there. It's well written, with no grammatical howlers or dead-end anecdotes (the kind where there's a huge buildup and then nothing). The emphasis is on her adventures as a travelling nurse on an island where travelling is often dangerous, not to say life-threatening, but we see her interactions with the wider community as well. My only problem was the huge number of characters introduced in the first few pages, with very little to identify them: FergieArchieMoragBehagAndCompany ran together for a good half of the book, but it could have been just me. That, and the fact that the narrative chops off rather short, but I see she has another book, so the rest of the story may be there.

  • Margie Nash
    2019-06-02 12:05

    I loved this book!! It's the touching story of a nurse, her husband and two young sons who choose to settle on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides. She is the only nurse on the island with only one elderly doctor on the other side of the mountain who assist each other. Although there are a very few despicable characters, her loving descriptions of most of people endears them to the reader. She is called to handle a myriad of medical emergencies and several physical challenges. She is enthralled by the beauty of the island, yet she does encounter very dangerous physical situations. I felt like I could draw a picture of the island and that I knew the people personally with her poetic writing.

  • Paige
    2019-06-02 18:53

    A very quaint collection of short stories about her time on this very small, remote island. I was feeling nostalgic for Scotland and Scottish people, so I found this book to be very comforting and interesting.

  • Sadie Ruin
    2019-06-01 13:48

    A great little book about living as a nurse on a remote Scottish isle before the time of cell phones and the internet. The chapter on sheep shearing was particularly entertaining. A good read for a slow and cozy day.

  • Betsy
    2019-06-02 16:48

    This book is a collection of stories about people a nurse on a remote island in the Hebrides treats and interacts with. It is structure is similar to James Herriot (All Creatures Great and Small) but the similarities end there. The book reads like a disjoint series of short stories and the writing is on a par with a middle school student's What I Did on Summer Vacation essay. I got about half way through before I decided the stories were't worth wading through the lousy writing.

  • Jennifer
    2019-05-16 12:58

    For me, this book fits into a niche country doctor genre, populated by Herriot and Patrick Taylor (Irish country doctor) and the like. Macleod moves with her family to a small island on the outer Hebrides. (She does not reveal which one.) As far as I can tell, the island has a few hundred inhabitants and abysmal weather practically year-round. Macleod lives there in the 70s, and the islanders have only recently acquired limited access to electricity. Many lack indoor plumbing and some lack even an outdoor privy. The people subsist primarily from farming and fishing, though they are beginning to turn to tourism.I've always been interested how people lived on the remote islands of Ireland and the UK, especially in past. What was life like for people in these remote places? This is certainly one of the more illuminating accounts I've read. Macleod's family moves to the Hebrides seeking a simpler life than the one they've been living in Cornwall, and life may in fact be simpler, but her stories make clear that simpler is not always better. The hardships she describes for me make such a life unappealing, from the girl suffering from leukemia who is airlifted off the island for treatment in a snowstorm alone, not even her mother able to come to far worse stories featuring incest, rape, and imprisonment. It seems reading the book that people die easily on this island. With that being said, it's clear the neighbors have a close bond unimaginable in the urban suburbs where I live. Macleod lacks Herriot's humor, but her stories feel more true and honest than his. Her few hundred pages are a small window into the good and the bad of this one island in the 70s.

  • Carla
    2019-05-24 15:13

    Mary J. Macleod writes of how her and her husband, with two children in tow, decide to relocate to the Scottish Hebrides. Not knowing the area intimately, but knowing of it, and how beautiful it must be from descriptions Ms. Macleod describes wonderfully, the vast, isolated, and primitive islands. She's a visiting nurse, and these stories are about people of the islands, some humourous, some tragic, that she knew through her work. Some stories made me cry, some made me laugh. What a treasure we have in this book through her experiences! I couldn't help but think while reading these stories of Call The Midwife, the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, and how Call the Nurse could be adapted to television (PBS) for years of wonderful stories, characters, and an expose to the wonderfully beautiful and stunning scenery that would be part of the series.A truly caring woman, I understand from other reviews that Ms. Macleod was nursing there in the 1970's, and is now in her 80's. I could have read a whole series of these books. Unfortunately, the book ended too soon, but I have an appreciation now of her endearing bedside manner, the hardships the people of the land face, and the Scottish Isles.