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The Great Grey's Walk :  Sunday 22 July 1984

The old  Grey's Hospital had given a service to the community of Maritzburg and district for nearly 130 years.  Furthermore it was the oldest hospital on its original site in the country, hence the move to the new Grey's was not only an event of considerable historical significance but also a nostalgic occasion for all who had been associated with the hospital in the past.

To mark the importance of the occasion it was decided to hold a GREAT WALK from the old Grey's hospital to the new to provide an opportunity for members of the Medical and Nursing professions to pay a last tribute to a fine hospital where so many of them received their early training.  By joining in the walk members of the public were also able to express their gratitude to the hospital.

  The weather was kind - overcast and cool but not raining and a large crowd assembled in the old Grey's car park where the Regimental Band of Natal Carbineers, under the directions of  Warrant Officer G.C. Jefferson, provided suitable music.  Dr. Fred Clarke M.E.C. made a short speech officially closing the Old Grey's buildings.  This was followed by prayers led by the Hospital Chaplain, the Revd Hamish Holman.

The Chief Matron, Miss Heather Findlay, accompanied by her Senior Matrons headed a cohort of student nurses in their gleaming white uniforms.  To the straining of 'Auld Lang Syne' the procession moved off and the emotional intensity of the event struck home to the assembled crowd.  Many a seasoned health professional was seen to wipe a glistening eye.

The Matron set a brisk pace and the diverse crowd followed.  The entire spectrum of the Medical  and Nursing staff was represented from long retired nurses and consultants to the most junior houseman and student nurse.  Toddlers, babies in prams and gamboling dogs completed the picture.  The route was down Prince Alfred Street and straight along Boshoff Street.  A word of thanks is due to the Traffic Department who managed the traffic control so efficiently.

Mr. Alan Barnes of Barclays Bank kindly provided a halfway house refreshment station which was much appreciated by the less athletic participants.  The long uphill to the new hospital slowed the pace somewhat but very few of the starters failed to make the journey.  No official records were kept by it is believed that the oldest person to finish was Mrs. Helen Hill aged 83, mother of the Hospital Chaplain who, as Miss Urquhart, graduated form Grey's in 1924.

The walkers were welcomed to the new hospital by the strains of rousing music played once again by the Carbineers band. The walk was an act of symbolic significance.  It acknowledged our debt to the past and transferred  to the New Hospital that magnificent spirit of dedication and service so typical of Grey's which not only enhanced its reputation in the past but also enabled Pietermaritzburg to develop as a regional center of medical excellence.                                                Terence Rockey

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