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Reviews / A Midwife in Africa – the incredible story of a 30-year adventure

Mona McAlpine’s new book to be launched in the Sound Hall on Saturday

The author with the late president Nelson Mandela.

WHEN a young nurse and midwife from Lerwick exchanged her native Shetland with Johannesburg, the city of gold, back in 1969 neither she nor her husband could have known what a life-changing experience they both were embarking on.

Now, more than 50 years later, Mona McAlpine has written a fascinating account of her time in South Africa at the height of Apartheid.

A Midwife in Africa, from Shetland to Soweto…and back is the continuing story of a Fair Isle Nurse, the title of her previous memoir.

As a midwife in the township of Soweto she encountered tragedy and comedy as well as frequent triumphs of the human spirit.

Puzzled and “actually quite outraged” when confronted with the realities of Apartheid at the end of the 1960s and into the seventies, she tries to get her head around alien concept and soon realises that she is on a steep learning curve in adapting to life in South Africa.

Being referred to as ‘madam’ by her new cleaner leaves her with a distinct “feeling of discomfort” and is then told that not to be addressed in that particular way would be “very funny”.

A few pages in Sister Rosie of the Noordgesig clinic advises: “I can see that the staff in a bit taken aback by your attitude.

“This is South Africa, Sister McAlpine. We’re not used to white people making us feel important. You’re treating us with respect and dignity. Thank you.”

Having lived in South Africa for 30 years, McAlpine has been an eyewitness to the country’s struggle to free itself from Apartheid which was achieved in 1994 when the African National Congress (ANC) won the country’s first democratic elections.

In her time at various hospitals in Johannesburg she also met the great and good of the country, including the late president Nelson Mandela – two of whose grandchildren she delivered.

Having returned to her home on the Old Rock at the start of the new millennium, 32 years after they left, Mona’s memoirs of life in South Africa will evoke strong emotions, from laughter to tears.

A Midwife in Africa has been published by Hillswick based Looderhorn Books and is distributed by Amazon.

The book will be launched in Shetland this coming Saturday (2 December) at the Sound Hall, in Lerwick at 2pm. A limited number of copies will be available for signing and personal dedication by the author.

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