Fermanagh sisters June Cavin and Eunice Hoey (née Smith) together have dedicated over 100 years of service to nursing, a career they have both loved.

Originally from Trory, the sisters both left their Fermanagh home to pursue nursing careers in their teens. Older sister June (69), who now lives in Uplawmoor, a village in Scotland, first trained as a nurse in 1969 and has been a midwife since 1974.

In 1975, June returned home to Fermanagh and worked in the Erne Hospital as a midwife until 1978. “I really enjoyed the Erne, there was a lovely bunch of people that I worked with,” she said, adding that she enjoyed being back home, spending time with her family.

The majority of June’s career has since been in Glasgow, firstly at Belvedere Hospital and more recently working in the southside communities of Pollokshields and Govan. After more than 50 years of nursing and midwifery, June can’t remember just how many babies she’s delivered, but it’s certainly in the thousands.

She said: “Looking back, it’s been such a privilege to look after so many women at such a special time in their lives. Women are remarkable and every birth has been special in its own way. I am lucky in that I have always enjoyed my job. It’s only now looking back, do I realise just how much childbirth has changed since I started in the early 70s.”

June officially retired this month but still intends to “keep her hand in” by doing the odd Bank shift. She said: “I have so much to look forward to. My new grandson is only six weeks old and hopefully there will be holidays – when we are allowed to go again.

“As I look back on my career I have been very lucky. Not everyone enjoys their job but I have loved mine – great colleagues and so many special memories. You know it’s time to go when the hospital you trained in was pulled down years ago. What will stay with me is just how amazing women are and just what they are capable of,” said June.

Following in her older sister’s footsteps Eunice (67), who currently lives in Hillsborough, started her nursing training when she was just 16 and a half years of age.

“I wanted to join the police but in those days females couldn’t join the police until they were 21 and the males could join at 18. So my father said, ‘why not follow in your sister’s footsteps and do nursing first, then you can always join the police’. And I never did, I stayed then in nursing,” said Eunice. She started her training at Purdysburn Mental Hospital in Belfast in 1971.

“I trained there for two and a half years and then I went to do my general part in the Royal [Victoria Hospital, Belfast] and I stayed there then when I qualified. Between day duty and night duty I spent 35 years in the Royal. Most of that I worked in neurosurgery, all through the Troubles,” said Eunice, who noted how she witnessed some horrific sights during this time: “But there was no such thing as go home and cry about it. It was go home, get a good night’s sleep and you were back on duty the next morning. You weren’t counselled or anything like that, it was just you worked, and you worked long hard hours.”

For Eunice, a highlight of her nursing career at the Royal was “seeing Fermanagh people coming in and being able to be with them”.

After retiring from the Royal, Eunice joined Campbell College Boarding School as College Matron, where she has worked for the past 17 years.

“It’s an amazing job, it’s so refreshingly different from the wards,” said Eunice.

She explained that at the boarding school there are 32 different nationalities which means there is a diverse culture. “The funny thing is, the head of boarding is also a Fermanagh man. So when they come from Mexico, they are greeted by a Fermanagh man who talks too fast and a school matron who talks too fast,” laughed Eunice: “We’re always being told to slow down, Fermanagh people talk too fast.”

Commenting that she loves her job, Eunice said: “I love nursing. Just the whole ethos of it. Come April 2021, I’ll be 50 years nursing and June was 51 years nursing there in September.”

“I don’t look back and think I had it hard, we were brought up in Fermanagh, my father brought us up as our mother died when we were all young.

“He brought us up with a work ethic that was second to none. You just get on with it and do it to the best of your ability and if you do that nobody can come back and say you didn’t,” she told this newspaper.