In her years as a midwife, Newtownbutler woman, Ethne McBrien became an unintentional inspiration to many of her younger colleagues.
Hailed by her peers as the perfect example of everything a midwife should be, her gentle, patient and caring nature earned her the respect of colleagues and the mothers she was caring for too.
Whether she admits it or not, she has left an indelible mark on midwifery locally, which is evident in the care provided by the new generation of midwives in Fermanagh and Omagh.
“I was never a complete mentor for any of the midwives, but I do think it is great to pass on skills to somebody else,” says Ethne humbly, “I would have acquired skills from others too - there were some very good senior midwives working in the Erne Hospital in my time. And I would say that they were much more of an influence on me when I had qualified than anything I that learned when I was a student midwife.
“To be a good role model for others is a wonderful thing.”
Ethne began her midwifery training in 1973. Over the years and before her retirement in 2008, she witnessed many changes in the role of the midwife.
“I was inspired to be a nurse by a lady who came to our home when I was younger,” she explains, “This lady did a dual role - midwifery and nursing. I took over the midwifery from that district nurse who used to come to our house all those years ago. 
“When I did my general training I loved working in Gynae and with children - they were my two favourites.
“Back then, it was really the done thing to train in midwifery after you had qualified in general nursing, so that is what I did.”
Little did she know that it would become the making of her - setting her on the career path of a lifetime.
“I loved it from the very beginning,” she says.
“I felt so privileged to be with women through their pregnancy and subsequently when they gave birth. Most of the time it is such a happy time, unfortunate some times it is not. But it is so important to be there for those people and give them the care and support that they need.”
Although her midwifery training was carried out in a hospital setting, Ethne always had a desire to work out in the community.
“I loved getting out to see the women in their own homes and local areas. And I liked the idea that we became a familiar face to them throughout the course of the pregnancy, we knew them well, we knew their extended families.
“I was fortunate to work in the area that I was born and reared and lived in.”
When Ethne’s career began, women’s pregnancy journey began in a hospital setting.
“More and more we began providing the ante-natal care, and the post-natal too,” she says.
“I always felt that the post-natal care was a very important part of it all in order to pick up any problems that there may have been.”
Ethne’s community post began in September 1987 and came to an end in December 2008 when she retired from midwifery.
Although she is 10 years away from her post, she admits she still has people stopping her in the street who would have been under her care.
“Most people never forget you,” she says, “If you have delivered their baby, you are connected to a very significant time in their lives: when their baby came into the world - a happy time.
“On the other hand, for some people, things didn’t go quite right and they will remember you for that too.”
During a local event to celebrate the centenary of the midwife, student midwife Pauline Brogan paid tribute to Ethne, the lady who cared for her when she was pregnant.
“It was very humbling listening to Pauline that day,” says Ethne, “I didn’t realise I’d had that affect on her.
“Midwifery is one of the most rewarding careers you could ever embark upon, I believe.
“Every mother comes to you with her own story and it is lovely to eventually see that mother with her baby in her arms and see her happy and managing well.
“I have had some young mothers establish breastfeeding well, who then went on to breastfeed all their other children too. That is the most rewarding aspect of the job. To know that the time you took to help that mother establish breastfeeding with her first baby has in turn helped her feel confident to do the same with her other children - it is so fulfilling.
“I think those are the stories that stand out most for me and my time as a midwife.
“When I think of those positive happy stories, there is nothing in this world that can beat that.”
Ethne says she has many happy memories to reflect on now in her retirement years.
“I have no regrets about my midwifery career. There is honestly nothing else I would have preferred to do with my life.
“I love to see all the young girls coming in with all the skills they are bringing into midwifery now.
“I think with all the skills that they acquire in their training now, midwives are more confident and more assertive, which is a good thing.”