During my nursing career in the late eighties and nineties I had the privilege to care for many varied and interesting people, some of whom I remember quite vividly. One such person was Hugo Irwin, quite a frail elderly gentleman whom I nursed on a care of the elderly ward during the last week of my training back in January of 1991. He was still a dapper and very well spoken man even though he was in his early eighties. He had led an exciting and full life and had decided to put pen to paper and recount these tales. In 1930 he was posted to India with the oil company he worked for. His book 'Garlands Galore' recounts his early years at Repton Public School (which incidentally is not far from where I live) and then various jobs he did before arriving in Madras. This book is like a window on a world long gone and I feel very lucky to have a copy. He called the book 'Garlands Galore' because of the many garlands placed around his neck to welcome him to various places as he travelled around India.
This is a picture of the front cover with Hugo seated with his two bearers standing behind him. Unusually for the time, he embraced the Indian culture whole heartedly and his first wife was an Indian lady.
The book is a real history of how India was under British rule in the 30's and it's subsequent independence in 1947. His life out there was fantastic, the British were treated like Royalty, and even though he enjoyed this aspect of it he also mixed with the Indians, and was genuinely interested in their culture and way of life. He was the only white man to sit on the Bombay Municipal Corporation when he moved to Bombay, and was the only civilian to be asked by the famous Poona horse to go pig-sticking!! He turned down becoming Mayor of Bombay to join the RAF as a co-pilot in readiness for the war. As you can see he led an interesting and busy life which carried on in to his old age. He took up flying again at the age of 65, and also gliding at the age of 67!!
Hugo in the 30's
Some of his escapades!!
One of the other student nurses knew him quite well as she lived near him and she came to visit him on the ward. He asked her to bring in some copies of his book so he could give them to the staff on the ward. I was lucky to receive one which he duly signed for me, and it is one of my most treasured possessions. I feel really privileged to have nursed this fascinating man, and to have shared some of his amazing stories from long ago. I only wish we had had more time to sit and chat as the ward was so busy, and my nursing duties prevented this. Sadly, I found out a few years later that he had died, but what a legacy he left behind. I feel quite sad that people from these generations are mostly passed on now, and all those memories have died with them, so this book is a wonderful testament to his life and a world sadly long gone.