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Hold On Edna!

by Aneira Thomas

Biography / Autobiography 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


'Edna,' says the doctor, coming to stand beside her bed. 'You need to wait. It's not long now. Don't push. Just hold on, Edna!'

The birth of the National Health Service coincided with the birth of one little girl in South Wales: Aneira 'Nye' Thomas, the first baby delivered by the NHS.

This is the touching story of Nye's family - their loves and losses - and the launch of a treasured public service that has touched the lives of every family in the nation.

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Hold On Edna! Press Reviews

'I am a proud supporter of our National Health Service which has shown yet again what an important and valued institution it is in the UK. As the first NHS baby through to her work today, Aneira's story shows her dedication and passion for protecting this phenomenal service for future generations.' KEIR STARMER

'This book speaks from the heart about a passion to preserve our NHS - as powerful a symbol of goodness as we have. Nye's own experience and that of her family represents our deep need to fight for a society where all are equal in worth and value. And how the NHS stands fast as a symbol of equality, of fairness, and of compassion for all.' MICHAEL SHEEN

'Aneira has written a memoir which is a deeply personal, richly researched and incredibly timely tribute to Britain's commitment to provide free and equal healthcare to all.' - DAILY MAIL Book of the Week, 22 May 2020

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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: 9781913406318
Publication date: 3rd September 2020
Author: Aneira Thomas
Publisher: Mirror Books
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography, Debuts,
Categories: Memoirs, True stories: discovery / historical / scientific, Sociology: family & relationships, Politics & government, Health systems & services, Nostalgia: general, Family history, tracing ancestors,

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.

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