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Hold On Edna!

by Aneira Thomas

Biography / Autobiography Debut Books of the Month Debuts

LoveReading View on Hold On Edna!

Beginning with the author’s great, great grandmother Tory, who lived in Somerset “over 100 years before Edna brought me into the world,” Hold On Edna! recounts the remarkable story of Aneira “Nye” Thomas, the first baby to be delivered by the NHS.

From learning that the “birth of the NHS received scant coverage” and was initially distrusted, to the author’s rousing reading of Michael Rosen’s “These are the Hands” poem at the NHS 70th anniversary event, this moving memoir is an absorbing mix of punch-packing family drama, and a powerful personal testament to Britain’s crowning achievement.

Throughout, the author casts an edifying light on working class social history through her family story. For Tory and thousands like her, death was very much part of daily life. If you’re in a workhouse, struggling to feed your children, paying a “quack” to heal you in sickness was out of the question. It was Tory’s death that brought her widow and six children to South Wales to seek work in the pits. While further hardship followed, it was fortuitous that the author’s mother, Edna, left Wales to find work at the same time as her future father. Employed at the same London hospital, they fell in love but money troubles, mouths to feed and the outbreak of WWII brought them back to Wales.

Through these same hard years, the couple’s compatriot Aneurin “Nye” Bevan had been devising a transformative plan for public health, leading to a Parliament bill “that would offer a state-wide health service" that was “to be free at the point of need; available to everyone, regardless of wealth or social standing.” And since “the man responsible for all this grew up not too far away,” Edna’s seventh child was movingly chosen to be the first child delivered by the NHS. Ready to give birth before the allotted time, Edna “held on… and then she pushed. I came barrelling into the world at a minute past midnight, the first baby to be born on the NHS”. A triumphant moment for a family who knew the toughest of times, and a triumph of transformative socialist policy.

Joanne Owen

Hold On Edna! Synopsis

This heartbreaking, heartwarming, true story following the history of a family in Wales is one of the most important books ever written.

The birth of the National Health Service - the UK's greatest asset - coincided with the birth of one little girl in South Wales, Aneira 'Nye' Thomas, the first baby to be delivered by the NHS.

Nye's story follows generations of her family who battled to survive before the NHS was launched, through to those who went on to dedicate their lives to working for the NHS - and also, ultimately, to be saved by it.

An emotive, extraordinary and yet uplifting reminder of a time not so long ago, when the value of your life came down to how much you had in your pocket. It is a touching and entertaining human drama, but more importantly - a fierce defence of the most important accomplishment this country has ever and will ever achieve.

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781913406318
Publication date: 03/09/2020
Publisher: Mirror Books
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781912624836
Publication date: 12/03/2020
Publisher: Mirror Books
Format: Hardback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781912624836
Publication date: 12th March 2020
Author: Aneira Thomas
Publisher: Mirror Books
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 352 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, Debuts of the Month, Debuts,
Categories: Memoirs, True stories: discovery / historical / scientific, Health systems & services, Nostalgia: general,

About Aneira Thomas

Aneira 'Nye' Thomas was named after the architect of the NHS, Nye Bevan. Born at one minute past midnight on Monday 5 July, 1948, she was the first baby born on the NHS. Aneira is currently based in Wales.

More About Aneira Thomas

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