AN INTERVIEW WITH LINA SEARLE

“I was the first local person to train as a physiotherapist in the UK; I was appointed locally in October 1957 on my return from England, and took over from a physiotherapist in the Colonial Service. Previously, they had all been appointed from their London office. The old hospital, then named the Colonial Hospital, changed its name to St Bernard’s in honour of the patron saint of Gibraltar in 1963.

After our return to Gibraltar from Madeira, post-World War II, on taking my 11+ exam, I attended the Loreto Convent Grammar School. It was during this period on one of my daily walks from home at the top of Scud Hill, past King George V Hospital (KGV), that I was influenced to take up hospital work. Later on, whilst searching through different paramedical career brochures, my interest in physiotherapy was aroused. I was very sports orientated and it seemed to combine both worlds.

In 1894 the Society of Trained Masseuses was established, later amalgamating with the Institute of Massage and Remedial Exercises. The field of Physiotherapy became institutionalised in 1918. Treatments were promoted and developed further during the care and rehabilitation of injured soldiers during the 1914-1918 World War I, as well as the outbreak of the Poliomyelitis epidemic when physiotherapy proved to be essential. The Society acquired its Royal Charter in 1920, eventually adopting its present name, ‘The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy’, in 1944.

There were quite a few memorable moments in my career; some sad, some humourous:

The eventual treatment of the burnt children, casualties of the Landport Ditch Accident in 1958, in the area then known as “The Jungle”, was one such sad case. Unfortunately, two of the four children passed away within a few months, the other two surviving and eventually requiring physiotherapy treatment – i.e. massage, movements and gentle exercises after skin grafting; hopefully preventing contractures.

The incident at the Pumping station in 1963 in Devils Tower Road was another sorrowful occasion. Sadly, a Spanish workman passed away, and physiotherapy was required for the second casualty – the foreman of sewers and a well-known local footballer – to assist in the expectoration and drainage of the gunge in the patient’s congested chest, and to improve his respiration. Thankfully the treatment was successful.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed dealing with Errol Flynn, the film star, at the Fracture Clinic! He sustained a fractured finger while sailing his catamaran. On a different occasion, treating Diana Cilento, the well-known actress and former wife of ex-James Bond Sean Connery was enjoyable and most interesting. Another intriguing patient was Lady Docker, who had arrived with Sir Bernard in their luxury yacht, the Shemara, and injured her foot whilst water skiing here in our bay.

Seeing people, whether young or old, improve and progress was always a challenge and very rewarding. The aim being to make patients as pain free, mobile and independent as possible.”

The book launch is on Thursday 24th October at the John Mackintosh Hall, 6:30pm.

Lina’s book will be on sale as from 25th/26th October at the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, The Caleta Hotel, The Main Guard, John Mackintosh Square, The Gibraltar Museum, and Imperial Newsagency. Profits will go to Breast Cancer Support Gibraltar.