The history of pre-hospital care in Liverpool, UK.

Dougie Sutton Memories

A small anecdote from Dougie Sutton before he passed away. Dougie; a true gent, proudly served for over 40 loyal and caring years in the Ambulance Service

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I remember when I was with Kenny Gunn, we went to a murder in Huyton, two o’ clock in the morning of New Years Eve. A mans body was laying on the pathway of the house by the front door, he had obviously died so we got onto the radio and requested the police to attend.Before the arrival of the constabulary, I went into the house, and while talking to the patients wife I noticed a blood stained knife on the sideboard. I thought “hello what have we here?”, so as a safety precaution, I carefully removed the knife and placed it in the ambulance top locker, to give to the Police when they arrived.We waited that long for the Police, that we were called away to another job, during which the Police where at the house searching for the murder weapon, which was of course riding round in the back of our ambulance! The Police chased us all over Liverpool and eventually we all met up and the knife was handed over. Nothing happened over our taking the knife, but I realise that nowadays you could not do such a thing and get away with it.

When did you actually start the job

I started in the City of Liverpool Ambulance Service on the 6th May 1951 and my duty was a 9 – 6 at Belmont (now Anfield). I did one day of 9-6 and the rest of the week on 3 – 11 teamed up with a chap called Chris Jones for about 12 months.I was transferred to Police station in Seel Street, Liverpool Town Centre, and my partner there for 5 years was George Stuart. We were moved from Seel Street to the Penny in the Pound Ambulance station garage called Stanhope Street in Liverpool 8. I didn’t want to go to Stanhope Street, but Mr Bradley said I would only be there for a fortnight and be brought back (Mr Bradley was one of the bosses at City of Liverpool Ambulance). Four years later I was back at Belmont and paired up with Kenny Gunn, which lasted for 16 years, this being the longest team partnership in those days.

What was the uniform like?

It was ooooh a navy blue double breasted jacket with 8 black buttons – with the Liver bird on, a plain peaked cap with the metal Liver bird as the cap badge. As the years went by, we finished with a smart uniform, similar to the Police, with top pockets and side pockets, and a new cap badge – the Liver bird with a laurel wreath around it.We never used to get shoe allowance, but as time passed, we did get an allowance and even socks were issued as well.

What type of vehicle did you drive?

When I started it was a Morris Commercial, a nice comfortable vehicle and the doors used to open with the hinges by your shoulder – the complete opposite of the way they are now. There were three different coloured ambulances:
The white ones were the ex Police ambulances and they attended all the emergency cases.
The brown ambulances for the admissions and maternities.
The green ambulances for the fever cases, and were known as the Fever ambulances.

What equipment did the ambulance carry ?.

Oh dear it was very basic back then, we had to obtain a St John or Red Cross First Aid Certificate which lasted 3 years. We had a few bandages (triangular) and dressings, but in the mornings you had to be in early to get the best blankets!
As time went on we did get more equipment, such as carry chairs, frac straps and the Minuteman. The Minuteman was a resuscitation machine manufactured by the British Oxygen Company, and in its day was a wonderful piece of kit, but not a patch on the kit that is on the vehicles of today.

What hospitals can you remember ?

Loads of them!!! The Old Royal, The Northern, The Southern, The Stanley, Bootle Borough, Hahneman,Walton,Sefton General, Broadgreen, Newsham General, Park, Garston, Womens, Liverpool Maternity, Alder Hey Childrens, Myrtle Street Childrens, Mill Road, Mill Road Maternity,Rathbone, Olive Mount, Mossley Hill, Turner Memorial for invalid men and 96 Upper Parliament Street for invalid women. There has been an awful lot of changes over the years but I used to like the old hospitals, you could always guarantee a cup of tea ! the staff were always friendly and had time to speak to them, but nowadays you’re too busy, the pressure of work is entirely different.

How did you manage before the carry chair ?

If we had a patient upstairs in a house or in one of the many blocks of tenaments (quaintly called gardens such as Carl Gardens etc), we would have to leave the back doors of the ambulance open, wrap the patient in a blanket and top and tail the patient from the bedroom to the ambulance. Once you had lifted the patient you could not put them down until you were in the back of the ambulance.

Rumour has it that you were the first crew at Old Swan ?

Now then, Old Swan, I am going back a few years and I was at Belmont with Kenny Gunn on night duty and we had to report to Old Swan station for 6 am. We were met by the shift leader at the time, Ronnie Flaherty and he let us into this brand new station until 7 am, when the early crew would arrive. Old Swan was a nice station and handy for both of our homes, Kenny and I where there for about 4 years.

What would be the lighter side of the job that sticks in your mind ?

I was on a 3 – 11 duty in Belmont, there were four vehicles on duty and we were called to the control for our next job. This was to report to Rose Lane were the television people where making a film starring Jimmy Edwards and Beryl Reid. Jimmy Edwards was cast as a band leader and stored all the instruments in a shed, which went on fire and Jimmy (in the film) suffered burns. We “arrived” and put Jimmy on the stretcher and carried him into the ambulance. We then had to go the Sefton Hospital, and as the film team was using the Nurses home as a cottage hospital, we drove up to the “hospital” and lifted Jimmy out of the ambulance. The big problem that the director chap was not happy with the first time we did this, and we had to unload Jimmy three or four times – bear in mind Jimmy was about 18 stone ! For this we got paid ten shillings, if we had had a speaking part we would have been paid £2 – 10 shillings.

You also had your sad days as well?

I can remember going to a traffic accident with one of our cadets who had become a fully trained ambulanceman his name was Glyn Brown.The fatal T.A was outside the Belmont pub and once we got there we dealt with the patient – child, who was not breathing. Unbeknown to us, Mr Guinney – Chief Ambulance Officer – was watching what we were doing as he had stopped to help as well. We then rushed the child to Alder Hey, and after handing the patient over, I could not find Glyn. I eventually found him behind the casualty building, he was upset and we both shed a few tears, because it is something that you just cannot help in this sort of job. As Mr Guinney used to say, if the ambulanceman cannot cry at the loss of a child he may as well pack the job in.