Friday, 5 July 2013

Call The Midwife! (The Orcadian Edition)

Well this is an interesting book. Jannet Mowat of Victoria Street Kirkwall kept a midwifery account book from 1830-1855.

She started as a nurse and so the first few entries are for 'giving ingections' and 'attending you as a sick nurse', but soon the entries list the boys, 'lasses' and 'girrels' that she has delivered across Orkney. (Kirkwall, Evie, Sanday, North Ronaldsay and PapaWestray are all mentioned.)

Sometimes the baby's name is listed and sometimes they are listed as still born or 'to be a still child.' Prices seemed to vary from customer to customer with most paying about 5 shillings for Jannet's services but the rate rises to £2 or even £3 for some customers.

Does anyone have an idea of why this would be? (It's not inflation as it happens throughout the whole book and it doesn't look like some were paying in installments.)

P.S. She wrote her married name more than once on the back page of the notebook like girls do with boys they fancy at school!

P.P.S. We NEVER did this.


  1. Perhaps wealthier people were charged more?

    1. maybe she charged more if the birth took longer..??

  2. £2 or £3 must have been a helluva lot of money back then. Maybe she was fostering the babies out and this was to pay for the care ? Or for wetnursing ? I'd love to know the reason if you ever find out !

  3. I thought it might be for travel expenses, if they had that in those days. I'll have to check the book and compare places and payments.

  4. I'm thinking most likely the higher rates were for wealthier people, too. It worked that way in early America, anyway. If you could afford to pay more, you were asked to pay more, and if you couldn't afford to pay at all, services were either free or you paid "in kind." I know, we're across The Pond, so there may be no relevancy. But, in the words of my children, "I'm just sayin'. "


  5. That does seem fair and Dusty and I were thinking the same thing...

  6. Is there a way of finding out the names and dates of the babies born in this book? I have no record of the birth of an ancestor born in 1838 in Kirkwall, and I suspect she was born out of wedlock. Would love to find out more about this book!

  7. Hi J, there are no names for the children, but the fathers are recorded. Email your query to us (see Contacts tab) and we shall be happy to do a search for you.


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