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Mother and grandmother will be remembered for a lifetime giving care

Betty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill Wakley

Betty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill Wakley

Jill Wakley

A register of cases detailing the names of hundreds of mothers and newborn babies showed the dedication of a nurse and midwife to her profession over more than five decades.

Betty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill WakleyBetty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill Wakley

Betty Mace (formerly Betty Boyce), who has died age 91, spent 55 years caring for patients and delivering babies across the region.

And her kind-hearted manner was somewhat of a thread woven through the family, from her parents to her daughters, who became nurses themselves.

Betty - who was known to many as Nurse Boyce - was born to Harry and Beatrice Winn, on November 8, 1925, in Burnham Market but lived in Sculthorpe from 1933 until 2014.

After completing her schooling, aged 16, she applied to study nursing in Ipswich and was accepted after she turned 17.

Betty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill WakleyBetty Mace (nee Boyce) who died on December 27, aged 92. Photo: Jill Wakley

It would take four years to train as a state registered nurse, but two years in - by the time she was 19 - Betty was on night duty in charge of a men’s medical ward.

During the day she would attend lectures, before going to work at night, and with the Second World War still raging on food rationing was in place.

Betty’s parents would send her food packages containing home-reared pork, trapped hare or rabbit - as her father was a shepherd at the time - and this made a welcome change to a menu which included whale meat.

She particularly enjoyed working in the operating theatre, where the role of a trainee nurse was to make swabs, dressing and clean the walls, amongst other tasks.

Record book belonging to Betty Mace (nee Boyce). Photo: Geraldine ScottRecord book belonging to Betty Mace (nee Boyce). Photo: Geraldine Scott

And when troops were brought in to the hospital after the D Day landings in 1944, Betty would use penicillin for the first time.

When she finished her training, Betty married Derrick Boyce, in 1947, and worked in Southend, Rochford and Norwich for six months each to become a state certified midwife.

In Norwich she was assigned to a midwife at Earlham Hall, but as Betty was married the Sister tutor would not allow her to have two days off together, so she was unable to go home to visit her husband.

However, adamant they would not be apart, Derrick would visit at the weekend, staying at a bed and breakfast.

In 1949 she got her first post in Great Ryburgh, where she was paid £390 a year - but as she failed her driving test her father-in-law stepped in to take her to visits until she passed.

In 1956 Betty welcomed daughter Judy, followed in 1959 by Jill but tragically two years later, after 14 years of marriage, Derrick died.

Betty continued her career with the help of her parents, who moved to Sculthorpe to support her.

She delivered babies in all kinds of conditions, including to a mother with a broken leg, in disused air field accommodation, in prisoner of war huts, and in a converted chicken hut.

For 32 years she was Fakenham’s community midwifery sister, meaning she was called out at all hours of the day and night - whatever the weather.

Speaking to this newspaper when she retired after more than 35 years, Betty said: “I think I have been out in all transport you can name. My neighbour Peter Williamson used to lend me a tractor and driver to get about in really bad weather”

On her career, where deliveries included four sets of twins, Betty said: “When I first started almost everybody was born at home, but over the last few years home delivery has slowly faded out. At one time you did not take any notice of whether a house had hot and cold running water. I’ve heated kettles over open fires many times - it was just accepted.”

After retiring from the health service, Betty was in charge of Mill House Residential Home for six years, then privately nursed a man for five years until 1997.

In 1999 Betty re-married Alfred Mace, and while recording her own memories for her life Betty wrote she had been “courted and flattered by a gentleman.”

In 2014, due to her ill health, Betty moved to County Tipperary in Ireland, where daughter Judy took care of her.

She died peacefully at home on December 27, 2016, under the care of both daughters who she regularly called “her girls”.

Betty is survived by her husband, who now lives in a nursing home in Dereham, her two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Paying tribute to their mother, Betty’s daughters said: “When you look at her life she was either caring professionally or for friends.

“She’s known by so many people we can’t imagine how many babies she delivered. She was always proud of having that long career.

“She was a very loving mother, she was a big support to us growing up.”

• A celebration of Betty’s life will be held on March 12, from midday, at Cotenham Barn, South Walsham Road, Panxworth, NR13 6JG. All are welcome, but the family ask anyone attending RSVPs by emailing jillwakley@hotmail.co.uk

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