Painting immortalises nurses who came out retirement to fight Covid

Artist who is also an NHS surgeon captures nurses' work on canvas.

Three nurses who came out of retirement to help with the Covid response have been captured on canvas.

A special artwork entitled Three Sisters paints a picture of the pandemic and the roles the nurses played in the vaccination programme.

It features Mary Ballantyne, Gill Stranock and Susan Dawson, all from Angus, at the Reid Hall in Forfar.

When coronavirus hit, they all answered the call to help the health service in its hour of need.

Painting commissioner Mary, from Forfar, felt overwhelmed when it was first unveiled.

“I was immediately transported back to December 8, 2020, day one, when we received our vaccine and that began with us, the nurses, and the doctors and all our immediate colleagues vaccinating each other,” she said.

“Alastair [the artist] has done such a good job. It’s just stunning.”

The oil painting, which captures a moment in time, is the latest work by artist and NHS Tayside surgeon Alastair Faulkner.

He said: “I’ve not been able to do much painting in the last year because of work commitments, so having this to focus on and really putting nursing staff front and centre helps celebrate their contribution.

“It helps demonstrate where we’ve come compared to where we were at the start.”

With more than 100 years of nursing experience between the trio, they put retirement on hold to return to the frontline.

At the height of the vaccination programme, they were among a team of nurses vaccinating 1500 people a day.

Gill Stranock, from Montrose, said: “To be in a pandemic that we’ve never experienced in our lifetime, and hopefully we’ll never experience again, was scary.

“In the February when we were vaccinating the elderly ones, the weather was terrible, you couldn’t get a taxi, buses weren’t running and this gentleman came all the way in from Broughty Ferry (to the Caird Hall vaccination centre in Dundee city centre).

“It was so sad, he got in because he wanted his vaccine and he hadn’t spoken to anyone in about six months.”

Susan Dawson, who lives in Kirriemuir, added: “I don’t think we thought about it being historical, we just got on with it.”

During lockdown in 2020, Alastair, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, painted a powerful portrait of his colleagues on a trauma ward.

It illustrated the many different healthcare professionals involved in patients’ recovery and is currently on display at the Royal College of Surgeons.

Painting has helped Alastair through some of the toughest times of the last three years.

“This painting moves the story on, the role vaccination played to getting us to where we are today, and the crucial part nurses played in that and are still playing in that,” he said.

Mary plans to take the painting on tour so people can see it.

She said: “As a portrait artist, Alastair has done an amazing job. The portraiture of the tools of our trade, the vaccine, the prescription, the syringe and needle, the practice of vaccination and the accuracy – I’m just amazed by that.”

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